Recently, NASA identified a world known as KOI 326.01. The planet is a tad smaller than Earth, with an average temperature lower than water’s boiling point. Still, in some ways KOI 326.01 is somewhat analogous to Earth, at least in size.
The Kepler telescope detects extrasolar planets by staring at 150,000 stars to find faint changes in light as planets pass over the stars. If there is indeed a shadow, there could be a planet present.
As far as KOI 326.01 goes, "It's a small object, a small candidate," William Borucki, a planetary scientist from NASA's Ames Research Center who heads Kepler's science team, said during a news briefing at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in Washington.
Borucki added astronomers don’t even know the size of its parent star, which makes the planet’s characteristics "extremely difficult to confirm."
MIT’s Sara Seagar of the Kepler team said the Kepler telescope is just the first step towards uncovering characteristics of other planets.
Future initiatives are expected to help determine if Earth-size planets exist, how common they are and if they show signs of life.
"The reality is that one telescope cannot answer all three questions," she said.
Indeed, estimates indicate that around one in every 200 stars should have a planet in a habitable zone where life could exist.
According to scientists, Earth-sized planets like KOI 326.01 are the planets best-suited for alternative life forms.
"There's a very rich ocean of planets out there to explore," Borucki said.
"[Still], it generally takes a year [after the] data has come down before we have any results to tell anyone about."