NASA is always up to something and whenever one looks to the official site, exciting and surprising new information and breakthroughs on space, planets and even alien life can be found.
Now NASA says that its Kepler Mission has discovered an earth-size planet very similar to our own. The new discovery, called Kepler-452b orbits around a sun-like star which – given the distance of the Kepler-452b – is one of the main reasons that this planet is almost identical to earth.
While it is the smallest planet to be discovered in habitable zone – the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet – scientists believe they are on the right track to discovering a planet with similar properties to earth.
News of Kepler-452b’s discovery was released by astronomers operating NASA’s Kepler space telescope. Dr. Jon Kenkins, from NASA’s Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, California, said: “We can think of Kepler-452b as an older, bigger cousin to Earth, providing an opportunity to understand and reflect upon Earth’s evolving environment. “It’s awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent six 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.”
Furthermore, John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington added:
“On the 20th anniversary year of the discovery that proved other suns host planets, the Keplerexoplanet explorer has discovered a planet and star which most closely resemble the Earth and our Sun. This exciting result brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0.”
The planet has a 385-day orbit and is only 5% farther from its star than earth is to its sun.
Evidence suggests the new planet is rocky, like the Earth. Its 385-day orbit is only 5% longer than an Earth year.
Ground-based observations from three US observatories confirmed that Kepler-452b was a planet and helped to pin down its size and orbit.
But as you can imagine – or you may already know – this is not the first Earth-like planet to be discovered. Another 521 yet-to-be confirmed exoplanet candidates were also unveiled by the Kepler team.
Analysis of data from May 2009 to May 2013 has increased the number of potential planets identified by the space telescope to 4,696.
Speaking at the launch of Breakthrough Listen, which will use two of the world’s most powerful radio telescopes to scour thousands of stars for intelligent transmissions over 10 years, Prof Hawking said: “We believe that life arose spontaneously on Earth so in an infinite universe there must be other occurrences of life.
“Somewhere in the cosmos, perhaps, intelligent life may be watching these lights of ours aware of what they mean. Or do our lights wander a lifeless cosmos, unseen beacons announcing that here on our rock, the universe discovered its existence?
“Either way, there is no bigger question. It is time to commit to finding the answer – to search for life beyond Earth.”
Scientists seem to have already found new potential homes for the human species. At the best case scenario, it won’t be a lot different than our own world. But who’s to say? Perhaps the time when we will schedule our weekend vacation to another planet, is not so far away!