NASA has announced the discovery of Kepler-452b, an "Earth-like" planet that some scientists believe could be the home of extraterrestrial life.
NASA revealed last Thursday that its Kepler space probe has located a planet that is only slightly larger and older than the Earth, but has a lot in common with our home planet. According to a report from CNN, Kepler-452b is the first planet to sit in the habitable zone of a star like our own sun.
NASA scientists still aren’t positive if there is an atmosphere that could support living organisms or liquid water on the planet, but they called it “Earth’s bigger, older cousin.” Kepler-452b is just 1,400 light years away from the Earth, found in a constellation named Cygnus.
NASA estimates that Kepler-452b is roughly 60 percent larger than the Earth, and due to its proximity to its host star, there is a very real possibility that liquid water could exist.
Gravity on Kepler-452b would be roughly twice that of the Earth’s, and it’s likely that the surface is covered in rocks, suggesting geologic activity.
Researchers believe there is likely an atmosphere on the planet, but they don’t know what it’s made of just yet. Based on the assumptions of a group of planetary geologists, the atmosphere would likely be thicker than the one on Earth, probably a result of active volcanoes.
The planet orbits its host star in 385 days, and it’s been in its sun’s habitable zone for nearly 6 billion years. If all of the necessary ingredients for life were present, there would have been more than enough time for complex organisms to form and evolve.
NASA’s Kepler mission began in 2009 and has located about 1,000 planets so far. 12 of these are considered “Earth-like,” falling within their suns’ habitable zones.
NASA will continue to search for habitable planets outside of our own solar system, with plans to launch new exploratory missions in 2017 and 2018.