NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Earth-Like Planet Orbiting Sun-Like Star

Say hello to Earth’s bigger and older cousin.

NASA scientists have discovered an Earth-like planet some 1,400 light-years away orbiting a star similar to the sun, they revealed during a press conference Thursday morning.

The newfound planet, named Kepler-452b, is the smallest planet yet discovered orbiting the habitable zone of a G2-type star, like our sun. The discovery of Kepler-452b brings the total number of planets confirmed by NASA’s Kepler mission to 1,030. It is the most similar to Earth of all of them.

“This exciting result brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0,” Dr. John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.

Kepler-452b is about 60 percent larger in diameter than Earth. Scientists haven’t yet determined its mass and composition, but it is likely a rocky world. The planet is about 5 percent farther from its parent star than Earth is from the sun — but the alien world still orbits within its star’s habitable zone.

“This is the closest thing that we have to another planet like the Earth,” Dr. Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, said in a teleconference. “It would feel a lot like home based on the sunshine.” Jenkins led the team that discovered Kepler-452b.

The planet’s host star, named Kepler-452, appears to be 1.5 billion years older than our sun, at 6 billion years old. It has the same temperature as our sun and is about 20 percent brighter and 10 percent larger in diameter.

“It’s awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth,” Jenkins said in the written statement. “That’s substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary —> Read More