Nasa Discovers Most Earth-Like Planet To Date
NASA announced on Thursday that its Kepler spacecraft has discovered a planet that is only slightly larger and older than the Earth, but bears many similarities to our home planet. According to CNN, Kepler-452b is the first planet to rest in the habitable zone of a host star like our sun.
NASA researchers still aren’t sure if there is an atmosphere that could support life or liquid water on the planet, but they described it as “Earth’s bigger, older cousin.” Kepler-452b is only 1,400 light years away from the Earth, located in a constellation named Cygnus.
NASA guesses that the planet is about 60 percent bigger than the Earth, and because of its proximity to its host star, there very well could be liquid water present.
Gravity on Kepler-452b is about two times that of the Earth’s, and it’s possible that the surface is littered with rocks, suggesting geologic activity.
Scientists think there is probably an atmosphere on the planet, but they aren’t positive what it’s made of just yet. Based on the assumptions of planetary geologists, the atmosphere would likely be thicker than Earths, in the presence of active volcanoes.
The planet circles its star in 385 days, and it’s been has sat in its sun’s habitable zone for nearly 6 billion years. If all of the necessary ingredients for life were there, there would have been plenty of time for organisms to form and evolve.
NASA’s Kepler mission was launched in 2009 and has identified about 1,000 planets so far. 12 of these are considered “Earth-like,” similar in size and within the range of their suns’ habitable zones.
NASA will continue to look for habitable planets outside of our solar system, kicking off new missions in 2017 and 2018.