NASA published in a press release that they have found the first near-earth sized planet the resides in the habitable zone of it’s parent star. This could be the most promising “Goldilocks” exoplanet discovery to date as it is in the perfect orbital zone of it’s parent star for liquid water to pool. Kepler 452b similar in size and distance from the sun as our Earth. The star that Kepler 452b orbits around is also a G2-type star, the same as our sun.
About Kepler 452b
Kepler 452b 6 billion years old which is older than our sun by 1.5 billion years. This gives it plenty of time to allow alien or even intelligent life to have developed, given that Earth has produced us in less time than that. A year on Kepler 452b is 385 days and it’s sun has roughly the same temperature as our sun. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to get exact measurements of it’s atmosphere and general makeup with the current technology as it is 1,400 light years away. Right now the best we can do is guess. We can guess that the planets atmosphere is thick and that it has liquid water oceans and active volcanoes. What we do know is that thanks to the energy radiating from it’s sun and the distance between them, that our plants would photosynthesise just fine.
This comes on the 20th anniversary of the discovery that other stars host planets and with this discovery we are one step closer to finding Earth 2.0. Jon Jenkins, a Kepler data analyst who led the team that discovered Kepler 452b has said:
“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.”
“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.”
He went on to say that the team have managed to completely automate the process of identifying planets. This has freed up countless man hours and providing their scientists with a whittled down list of possible candidates for Earth 2.0. They have to go through the process of finding small rocky planets similar to ours that are usually one to two times the size of Earth. The current number of confirmed exoplanets discovered by the Kepler mission is 1,030. The total number of candidates now stands at 4,696, up by 521 in 4 years.
The team are now preparing the last catalog of planets from the last 4 years of Kepler’s data collection which will be put through one of the world’s most sophisticated computer programs that is becoming more and more precise at targeting the specific conditions to support life on a planet. So far of the 1,030 planets confirmed, only 12 lay in the habitable zone. If you would like to view more information on exoplanets you can view NASA’s archive of them here.
Other Earth Like Planets
Over the last number of years there have been a few “Earth like” exoplanets that have been identified. Just last year Kepler 186f was found to be within the habitable zone of it’s star. However it was on the outer most region of it, and it’s sun is weaker than the sun of the newly discovered Kepler 452b’s solar system. So while a lot of the signs point to a positive outcome with Kepler 186f, it could still fall short of the conditions required to sustain life. Kepler 452b is much more promising than Kepler 186f. NASA also has a section on their site discussing their quest on finding another Earth.