NASA has a new favorite planet. It goes by the unsexy name of Kepler-452b, but the description reveals more about why it’s special: in a release, the aerospace experts have called it Earth’s “Bigger, Older Cousin.”
NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery … marks another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”
Kepler-452b is 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus — so we won’t be going there anytime soon. But the data is nonetheless exciting for scientists who’ve hoped to discover an Earth-like planet:
Kepler-452b is 60 percent larger in diameter than Earth and is considered a super-Earth-size planet. While its mass and composition are not yet determined, previous research suggests that planets the size of Kepler-452b have a good chance of being rocky. While Kepler-452b is larger than Earth, its 385-day orbit is only 5 percent longer. The planet is 5 percent farther from its parent star Kepler-452 than Earth is from the Sun. Kepler-452 is 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than our sun, has the same temperature, and is 20 percent brighter and has a diameter 10 percent larger.
Says Jon James of NASA’s Ames Research Center:
“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.”