On Thursday, July 23 NASA announced that its Kepler spacecraft has identified Earth’s bigger and older cousin. This is the first time ever in history that astronauts have spotted a planet in a star’s habitable zone whose size is almost similar to that of Earth.
Although NASA still doesn’t know whether the newly spotted planet has air and water or boasts a rocky surface like ours, one thing that can be confidently said is that it’s the closest match discovered to date.
Jon Jenkins, a Kepler researcher, when talking about this new discovery said that it has made Earth slightly less lonely.
The planet, which has been named as Kepler-452b, is located around 1,400 light-years away from our home planet Earth. It’s situated in a constellation called Cygnus. NASA informed that this newly spotted planet is 60% larger than Earth and is situated in the habitable zone of the star it is revolving around. For those who don’t know: the term “habitable zone” is used for the area where existence of life-sustaining liquid water on the planet’s surface is possible.
NASA revealed that visitors to the planet will be experiencing gravity around two times that of Earth’s. In addition, planetary scientists are saying that the chances that the planet has an Earth-like rocky surface are also pretty high.
While the distance between Kepler-452b and its star is a bit more than the distance between Earth and the sun, this new planet has a brighter star. As a result, the energy Kepler-452b obtains from its star is almost same as the energy our planet gets from the sun. Jenkins said that the intensity of starlight in the planet would also be almost similar to that of Earth.
According to Jenkins, he and his colleagues are confident that Kepler-452b has an atmosphere. However, scientists still don’t know what exactly that atmosphere is made of. However, if hypotheses of the planetary geologists are true, the planet’s atmosphere might be thicker than that of Earth’s. Experts are also saying that Kepler-452b might be home to several active volcanoes.
The planet takes 385 days for orbiting its star. So, a year in the planet will have just 20 days more than a year on Earth (calculated based on the fact that Earth takes 365 days to orbit the sun).