NASA’s Kepler telescope discovers ‘Earth 2.0′
NASA scientists said they believe it is the most Earth-like planet yet.
“On the 20th anniversary year of the discovery that proved other suns host planets, the Kepler exoplanet explorer has discovered a planet and star which most closely resemble the Earth and our Sun,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.
The newly discovered planet has been named Kepler-452b. It is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone of a star like our sun.
The planet is a little more than one and a half times as big in radius as Earth. It circles it’s sunlike star in an orbit that takes 385 days, just slightly longer than our own year, putting it firmly in the “Goldilocks” habitable zone where the temperatures are suitable for liquid water on the surface.
NASA estimates that Kepler-452 is 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than our sun.
“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,” said Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA’s Ames Research Center, who led 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.”
Launched in 2009, the Kepler telescope has previously discovered more than 4,000 planets in space – but this discovery could be its most significant to date.