NASA’s space observatory Kepler may have discovered a possibly Earth-like planet, a rocky world orbiting a Sun-like star at almost the exact same distance Earth orbits our own Sun: Kepler-452b!
“The new Earth” is located 1,400 light-years from us. It orbits a Sun-like star that is 4% more massive and 10% brighter than our Sun. Kepler-452b is 1.6 times the size of Earth and the scientists are fairly sure that it is a rocky world.
Mike Butcher, editor-at-large of TechCrunch, tweeted today:
NASA has called a press conf for 12pm EST Thurs about an Earth-like world 1,400 light years away called Kepler 452b http://t.co/K5Cu3v542z
— Mike Butcher (@mikebutcher) July 22, 2015
A Kepler-452b year is 384.84 Earth days and the planet is 5% more distant from its star than our planet is from the Sun. This
The mass of Kepler-452b can’t be directly determined yet, but the scientists think it may be about five times that of Earth.
This is not the first Earth-sized planet found in a habitable zone: for example, Kepler-186f, which discovered last year about 490 light-years (151 pc) from the Earth, is more similar in size to our planet. But it is orbited a red dwarf star, smaller and cooler than the Sun.
We can’t know if there’s life on the planet, and probably we won’t know for a long time. But we’re on the track. John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate said that: “Kepler 452b is one small step in answering the question [of are we alone] today,”, in a press conference.
Launched in March 2009, Kepler is the first NASA mission to detect Earth-size planets orbiting distant stars in or near the habitable zone — the range of distances from a star in which the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might sustain liquid water. The telescope has since confirmed more than 1,000 planets and more than 3,000 planet candidates spanning a wide range of sizes and orbital distances, including those in the habitable zone.
Kepler is part of NASA’s Discovery Program of relatively low-cost, focused primary science missions.