Kepler-1649c: Earth-Size, Habitable Zone Planet Hides in Plain Sight


April 16, 2020

An illustration of what Kepler-1649c could look like from its surface.

A team of transatlantic scientists, using reanalyzed data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, has discovered an Earth-size exoplanet orbiting in its star’s habitable zone, the area around a star where a rocky planet could support liquid water.

Scientists discovered this planet, called Kepler-1649c, when looking through old observations from Kepler, which the agency retired in 2018. While previous searches with a computer algorithm misidentified it, researchers reviewing Kepler data took a second look at the signature and recognized it as a planet. Out of all the exoplanets found by Kepler, this distant world – located 300 light-years from Earth – is most similar to Earth in size and estimated temperature.

This artist’s illustration shows what Kepler-1649c could look like from its surface.

Learn more at NASA’s Reddit Ask Me Anything on Friday, April 17, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. EDT. To participate, go to:

Image Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Daniel Rutter Last Updated: April 16, 2020 Editor: Yvette Smith

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Stephen Richards
April 17, 2020 2:59 am

fantasy land.

Reply to  Stephen Richards
April 17, 2020 1:39 pm


Reply to  Todd
April 17, 2020 6:00 pm

This artist’s illustration shows what Kepler-1649c could look like from its surface.

What discovery in astronomy would be complete without an “artists impression” of all the things they DID NOT discover?

Richard (the cynical one)
Reply to  Greg
April 17, 2020 7:04 pm

There ‘could’ be an infinite number of pictures painted of what that planet ‘could’ look like, and every brush stroke ‘could’ be wasted time and energy.

Ron Long
April 17, 2020 3:09 am

Let’s get Captain Kirk to check it out. “Beam me up, Scotty, there’s no intelligent life on this planet” may become the new theme for the planet called Earth, so he has to go somewhere. I know Captain Kirk is available because I saw him on TV pretending to do a commercial (good cover!).

Reply to  Ron Long
April 17, 2020 8:17 am

But Jim, those are our men down there. We can’t just leave ’em!

Bones, … I … don’t … have a choice!

Trellis Holder
Reply to  Ron Long
April 18, 2020 12:18 pm

Some life on earth is struggling to maintain its intelligence. Other species have given up and decided the intelligent ones are not pretty or handsome.

Gras Albert
April 17, 2020 3:14 am

I can hear the Twilight Zone music in the background.

An alien threat, just what’s needed to put the open toed sandal brigade back in work boots 🙂

Dodgy Geezer
April 17, 2020 3:37 am

“…This artist’s illustration shows what Kepler-1649c could look like from its surface…..”

Equally, it could like like this:

comment image

Richard of NZ
Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
April 17, 2020 4:11 am

Or equally well it could look like either the Sahara or Antarctica.

Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
April 17, 2020 4:56 am

My first thought was the Sea-Monkeys ads in old comic books. link

Patrick MJD
April 17, 2020 4:08 am

Can we once think about *THIS* rock we live on? All good looking about, but…

Right-Handed Shark
April 17, 2020 4:34 am

“is most similar to Earth in size and estimated temperature.”

Is that before or after adjustments?

April 17, 2020 4:45 am

Another candidate in a red-dwarf flare-star system.

Reply to  Mike
April 17, 2020 11:04 am

Once again we see junk science in action with the media. While this science is interesting from an astronomical perspective, Red Dwarf planets have zero chance of life. The massive flares Red Dwarfs give off will sterilize any planet, and it happens regularly. Then the issue of all planets around RD’s being tidally locked – cooked on one side and frozen on the other, etc etc. The scientists should be honest and just say straight out “these planets have zero chance of having life”.

John Tillman
Reply to  ggm
April 17, 2020 12:59 pm

I wouldn’t say zero chance, but odds are low.

It’s possible to imagine ways in which life might arise and survive there, but not probable.

John Tillman
Reply to  ggm
April 17, 2020 1:22 pm

A science fiction writer’s take on life on a planet tidally locked to an M-dwarf star:

She consulted astronomers and physicists studying red dwarf systems.

Tom in Florida
April 17, 2020 4:48 am

I suppose the people of that planet, while reading their version of WUWT, are commenting in the same way.

Bill Powers
Reply to  Tom in Florida
April 17, 2020 9:13 am

Its simply a matter of who can solve those sticky issues of light speed and suspended animation first. Question how much do cells degrade in suspended animation? 300 years is quite a long time.

John Tillman
Reply to  Bill Powers
April 17, 2020 5:02 pm

Three hundred years at light speed isn’t possible. The spacecraft would become infinitely massive.

At one-tenth light speed, not yet attained, 3000 years. At the record speed expected for the Parker Solar Probe, ie 430,000 miles per hour, 13.7 million years. Unless I’ve misplaced a decimal point; if so, please correct me.

So, we’re not likely to visit until warp drive be perfected, in which you get from A to Z by skipping B to Y.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Tom in Florida
April 17, 2020 10:45 am

One thing that amazes me is that most of us grasp the distances involved, 300 light years in this exo-planet case. But the depth of time, billions of years of steady evolution to get us to having WUWT blog and an internet, totally escapes our ability to comprehend where we sit as just a wink of time in that temporal vastness.

300 years ago we were writing on parchment paper with feather quill pens and indigo ink. The nobility class, monks in monasteries, and the few other educated men who went to the few universities were the only ones doing much writing. A printing press was expensive and they could be commissioned to make bills for posting in public places. The wealthy could afford whale oil for their lamps. Everyone else burned wood or animal fats. Of course, the entire planet could also be sterile with one sufficient flare from a red dwarf because of the orbital distance from the star in much closer than we are from our well-behaved G-class star.

Chris Marrou
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 17, 2020 10:55 am

I’m not concerned–in a few years Walbert Rillmeyer will invent the hyper light drive, powered by a single rechargeable 9 volt battery and able to produce speeds of 100 light years per minute. Sadly, we still will not have flying cars.

Dodgy Geezer
Reply to  Tom in Florida
April 18, 2020 1:46 am

Of course. Astronomers on a tidally-locked planet would predict that any free liquid, like water, would be dragged around the planet twice daily, creating huge waves which would destroy anything in their paths….

April 17, 2020 5:33 am

Science talent at the NASA of the past has been supplanted by the science fiction of today.

Bill Powers
Reply to  Vuk
April 17, 2020 9:16 am

I guess it speaks to why we bounce martian rovers off the surface rather than land them. We traded our slide rules and scientist/engineers in for computer models and activists.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Bill Powers
April 17, 2020 12:52 pm

Perhaps lifting the fuel required for a controlled landing on Mars and transporting it all the way there is not the cheapest way to do things. Budgets, budgets, budget.

Dave dodd
Reply to  Bill Powers
April 17, 2020 4:40 pm

Particularly when one side of the pond uses US customary units, and the other uses Metric units, on the same project, and the two do not communicate that fact!

Wayne Townsend
April 17, 2020 5:37 am

Looking up the star, this is all I needed to know.

Kepler-1649c is an exoplanet orbiting the red dwarf star Kepler-1649.

Planetary habitability of red dwarf systems is subject to some debate. In spite of their great numbers and long lifespans, there are several factors which may make life difficult on planets around a red dwarf.

Planets in the habitable zone of a red dwarf would be so close to the parent star that they would likely be tidally locked.

Red dwarfs are often flare stars, which can emit gigantic flares, doubling their brightness in minutes. This variability may also make it difficult for life to develop and persist near a red dwarf.

Call me when the exoplanet isn’t around a Red Dwarf.

Thomas Mark Schaefer
Reply to  Wayne Townsend
April 17, 2020 5:52 am

…and in the days of super-diseases, I wonder how much ultra violet in sunlight is necessary to support higher life, or the surface of the planet gets covered in green bio-sludge.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Wayne Townsend
April 17, 2020 10:31 am

Gee Wayne , I guess you forgot about geoengineering! Once we perfect it on earth, Bob’s your uncle as they say. Hey I have an idea- geoengineer people! How hard could it be?

Reply to  Gary Pearse
April 17, 2020 6:15 pm

for the moment we can’t “geoengineer” a fikkin virus without nearly destroying ourselves.

The chances of us getting off this rock before the whole crap shoot falls apart seem vanishingly small.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Wayne Townsend
April 17, 2020 2:48 pm

“Call me when the exoplanet isn’t around a Red Dwarf.”

Me, too! 🙂

Isn’t it a little strange that we haven’t found one Earth-like planet in an Earth-like orbit around an Earth-like sun? Maybe it’s just too early in our search. There’s a lot of territory to cover out there in the universe.

If we find one, that will be exciting.

April 17, 2020 7:14 am

At escape velocity, a rocket would take 22 weeks to go from here to the sun if it could be shot in a straight line. A single light year is over 63,000 times one astronomical unit (distance from eart to the sun). This exoplanet is 300 times 63,000 times 22 weeks away from us. Better just mop and dust the earth we have.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  AgeOfReason
April 18, 2020 5:00 am

It’s much easier to simply check the Voyager flight status here:

After 42+ years Voyager 1 is just over 20.5 light HOURS away.

April 17, 2020 7:28 am

Let’s go!

April 17, 2020 8:18 am

Habitable by what? Scorpions?

April 17, 2020 8:43 am

NASA’s science fiction department issues press release complete with “This artist’s illustration shows what Kepler-1649c could look like from its surface.”

E.E. Doc Smith would be proud.

The actual data upon which this fantasy is based is so scientifically thin it looks like catastrophic climate science.

April 17, 2020 8:45 am

Hopefully it’s not on a collision course with Earth and the planet is renamed Zyra.

Carl Friis-Hansen
April 17, 2020 9:47 am

While previous searches with a computer algorithm misidentified it, researchers reviewing Kepler data took a second look at the signature and recognized it as a planet.

Was the computer algorithm/AI so smart it recognized right away that this planet was not really inhabitable, or were the humans so !smart they they made a poor algorithm?

I am here questioning their algorithm in the same way the CAGW models fail.

Why would one search for more or less inhabitable planets so far away in the first place? Back in the 60’s we were dreaming of Mars Monsters, which was light years more realistic.

April 17, 2020 10:28 am

Would Venus look like a habitable planet if it were an exoplanet? It’s clearly not. Another question: The hellishly high surface temperature is blamed on CO2; is this valid?

John Tillman
Reply to  Tom
April 17, 2020 12:56 pm

No, it’s not valid. Venus is hot because it turns so slowly, and has a dense atmosphere. The composition of its air matters much less than the fact that high winds keep the dark side almost as hot as the lit side. It’s hotter than Mercury not only because it turns more slowly (and has a nearly circular orbit, with practically no axial tilt), but also because it doesn’t cool off at night, as does Mercury.

In fact, very little sunlight makes it to the surface of Venus, given its high albedo and light-absorptive atmosphere.

April 17, 2020 10:29 am

Too many scientists WANT to believe that life is possible on any rocky planet circling any kind of star located anywhere in the galaxy. So they ignore science that describes the multitude of criteria that are required for even primitive life to exist. It was not so long ago that scientists acknowledged that the science indicates that life seems impossible anywhere in the universe.

These days it seems they’re rather heavily influenced by watching too many science fiction movies.

John Tillman
Reply to  Art
April 17, 2020 1:07 pm

Please state which scientists acknowledged that science indicates that life seems impossible anywhere in the universe. Thanks!

There were some students of the origin of life who, at the end of the last century, acknowledged that it was a difficult problem, perhaps incapable of being solved. But that’s not the same as considering it impossible to occur at all.

Life exists on Earth, so odds are good that it’s elsewhere, perhaps anywhere that liquid water (or other suitable solvent), energy sources and the requisite elements (here, the very common H, C, N, O and others less abundant) are available.

Reply to  Art
April 17, 2020 7:23 pm

That wishful thinking is what resulted in the Drake Cocktail Napkin Doodle.

Sexton Beetle
April 17, 2020 1:04 pm

The dimming method of detecting exoplanets can only detect planets whose orbits intersect a plane between our vantage point and the star that they orbit, seconds of arc, at best. Planets with short ‘years’ will be more likely to be detected. Obviously, many times more planets than have been discovered exist. Really amazing that there have been so many discovered already.
It seems likely that if there is eventually a planet found that has liquid water on it, that our descendants will be very hesitant to go to it for fear of contaminating ourselves or whatever life might exist there. We would likely observe it and may send probes to it’s solar system to monitor it, but it might be considered to be too dangerous to contact.

Smart Rock
April 17, 2020 2:07 pm

If there is active life around hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor where there is no light and where the 250°C water is full of arsenic and heavy metals, if there are bacteria living in pore water 2,000 metres underground in Archean-age rocks, we can anticipate a lot of life where we wouldn’t have expected it 50 years ago. As long as there’s water, there will probably be life forms, although they may not have invented the internet or developed interstellar travel yet.

John Tillman
Reply to  Smart Rock
April 18, 2020 3:34 pm

Plus in lakes under Antarctic ice sheets. Life is resilient, tough and tenacious. But it does have its limits.

I’m of the school that life is inevitable under a wide range of not very stringent requirements. It solves certain physics problems in aqueous systems.

Planets tidally-locked to red dwarfs are a hard sell, but I’m willing to buy. Maybe I’m a sucker. It’ll be a long time before we can know either way.

A better bet is moons orbiting such a locked planet. Especially around an older M-dwarf which has damped down its youthful flare behavior. Bear in mind that these little stars are practically immortal.

Garland Lowe
April 17, 2020 3:27 pm

Even if we found a move in ready planet, the fastest man has traveled is around 25,000 mph. 7 miles per second. This is 2657 times slower than the speed of light, if I’m correctly doing my arithmetic I learned in the 60’s. 300 times 2657 equals797,100. It would take people 797,100 years to reach a planet 300 light years away.
In my opinion we should be spending tax dollars on more important needs. I know needs are subjective, but this stuff is useless, interesting but useless. Let the private sector spend money on this type of research, if they care to.

David S
Reply to  Garland Lowe
April 17, 2020 4:19 pm

“It would take people 797,100 years to reach a planet 300 light years away.”

You better pack a lunch!

Reply to  David S
April 17, 2020 9:13 pm

Just pack the space ship with Twinkies®. They have no expiration date.

wlad from brz
April 17, 2020 4:27 pm

What are “transatlantic scientists”?

Steven Fraser
Reply to  wlad from brz
April 18, 2020 4:02 pm

I had the same question. Perhaps ‘transatlantic’ needs to be placed prior to ‘team’ 🙂

Joz Jonlin
April 17, 2020 8:21 pm

Never say never, but the chances of life evolving on a planet around a red dwarf like this is pretty slim. Being tidally locked would certainly limit the options for life.

Peter D. Tillman
April 19, 2020 5:43 am
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