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NASA’s Kepler confirms its first habitable planet

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In another step toward finding Earth-like planets that may hold life, NASA said Monday the Kepler space telescope has confirmed its first-ever planet in a habitable zone outside our solar system.

French astronomers earlier this year confirmed the first exoplanet to meet key requirements for sustaining life, but Kepler 22b, initially glimpsed in 2009, is the first the US space agency has been able to confirm.

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Confirmation means that astronomers have seen it crossing in front of its star three times. But it doesn’t mean that astronomers know whether life actually exists there, simply that the conditions are right.

Such planets have the right distance from their star to support water, plus a suitable temperature and atmosphere to support life.

“We have now got good planet confirmation with Kepler 22b,” Bill Borucki, Kepler principal investigator at NASA Ames Research Center, told reporters.

“We are certain that it is in the habitable zone and if it has a surface it ought to have a nice temperature,” he said.

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Spinning around its star some 600 light years away, Kepler 22b is 2.4 times the size of the Earth and orbits its sun-like star every 290 days.

Scientists do not know, however, if the planet is rocky, gaseous or liquid.

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The planet’s first “transit,” or star crossover, was captured shortly after NASA launched its Kepler spacecraft in March 2009.

NASA also announced that Kepler has uncovered 1,000 more potential planets, twice the number it previously had been tracking, according to research being presented at a conference in California this week.

Kepler is NASA’s first mission in search of Earth-like planets orbiting suns similar to ours.

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It is equipped with the largest camera ever sent into space — a 95-megapixel array of charge-coupled devices — and is expected to continue sending information back to Earth until at least November 2012.

Kepler is searching for planets as small as Earth, including those orbiting stars in a warm, habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface of the planet.

The latest confirmed exoplanet that could support life brings to three the total number confirmed by global astronomers.

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In addition to French astronomers’ confirmed finding of Gliese 581d in May, Swiss astronomers reported in August that another planet, HD 85512 b, about 36 light-years away seemed to be in the habitable zone of its star.

“The Europeans have also been very active, actively working on confirming our candidates,” Natalie Batalha, Kepler deputy science team lead at San Jose State University, told reporters.

“They have already confirmed two that are published and they have got another batch that are on the preprint servers so those will be, I’m sure, in the published literature soon,” she added.

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“So we are just thrilled about this. We need all telescopes observing these candidates so we can confirm as many as possible.”

According to an online catalog that indexes bodies outside our solar system by the Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL) of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, a total of 47 exoplanets and exomoons are potential habitable candidates.

The Habitable Exoplanets Catalog (HEC), available online at http://phl.upr.edu, gives scientists “the ability to compare exoplanets from best to worst candidates for life,” said principal investigator Abel Mendez.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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‘They love the meanest parts of him’: Conservative writer explains why evangelical Christians stick with Trump

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Ben Howe, a conservative writer and evangelical Christian who refuses to support Donald Trump, explained why fellow evangelicals continue to back the president despite his decidedly ungodly behavior.

Speaking with the Atlantic’s Emma Green about his new book The Immoral Majority, Howe — whose evangelical bona fides include attending pastor Jerry Falwell’s church as a kid — described evangelicals’ support for Trump, insisting “they love the meanest parts of him.”

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‘Mental midget’ Stephen Miller absolutely demolished in MSNBC blast at Trump’s ‘misfit’ advisers

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Given the opportunity to discuss two profiles on White House adviser Stephen Miller -- published by the Washington Post and the New York Times late Saturday -- Democratic consultant Don Calloway jumped in with both feet to trash the man he called a "mental midget"."

Asked p on MSNBC about the controversial Miller's outsized influence on Donald Trump, Calloway didn't hold back.

"What goes through your head when you hear how much influence Stephen Miller has on immigration policy?" host Alex Witt asked.

"Stephen Miller is a mental midget, that's the best thing I can say," Calloway began to the sounds of laughter offscreen.

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Black woman reveals how Trump is ruining her marriage: ‘My white Republican husband is starting to hate me’

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A black woman revealed over the weekend how President Donald Trump and right-wing media are straining her marriage.

In a Twitter rant on Saturday, a woman going by the name Glass Butterfly hit a nerve by starting a discussion about the challenges of interracial marriage in the age of Trump.

"My white Republican husband is starting to hate me because the longer we live through this administration the 'BLACKER' I become," she revealed. "Any interracially and opposing politically affiliated couples going through this? Like...I have NO idea how to balance who we are..or are becoming."

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