Another Earth in the Cosmos?

Jan 13, 2015

The Kepler mission may have lost two of its wheels, but data being mined from the mission has unearthed eight potentially habitable planets.

Steve Kawaler is an astrophysicist at Iowa State University who works with the Kepler project. He says water is an essential aspect of considering a planet habitable.  

"The bottom line is we're looking for rocky planets, planets that have a nice, solid surface, that aren't therefore too big, so they have an enormous thick atmosphere, or too small that they're frozen solid. [...] They need to be in the right distance from their home star, in the Goldilocks zone."

That 'Goldilocks zone' means the planet is far enough that the water won't boil away, but not so far that the water will freeze.

On this episode of River to River, Ben Kieffer speaks with Kawaler about the Kepler mission, star quakes and other space phenomena. UI astrophysicist Jasper Halekas also joins the conversation to discuss his work with the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission.