NASA’s search for another planet with Earth-like properties has hit on a potentially habitable one with Kepler-452b, a celestial body the space agency says is the most similar to the Earth-sun system of any it has discovered.
NASA has identified numerous planets using its Kepler space telescope that fall into what is called a "habitable zone," meaning they are in orbits close but not too close to their stars. In a press release this week, the agency said Kepler-452b
"fires the planet hunter’s imagination because it is the most similar to the Earth-sun system found yet: a planet at the right temperature within the habitable zone, and only about one-and-a half times the diameter of Earth, circling a star very much like our own sun."
The search for Earth 2.0, as NASA associate administrator John Grunsfeld called the Kepler mission,
began 20 years ago, and NASA has identified more than 10 possible planets that would be candidates.
Despite its likeness to Earth and its orbit around a star at a distance that could allow liquid water to pool on the surface, Kepler-452b does have differences. For one thing, NASA reported, it’s 60 percent larger in diameter than Earth and its orbit is 385 days. Although there is not definite data on its mass and composition, some data suggests it may be rocky.
"We can think of Kepler-452b as an older, bigger cousin to Earth," said Jon Jenkins, leader of the team that discovered Kepler-452b. "It’s awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth. That’s substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet."
The Kepler-452 system is 1,400 light-years away from Earth, located in the constellation Cygnus, NASA said.
Kepler-452b inspired many online to dream of space and aliens:
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