NASA Found Earth's Cousin Which May Be The First Habitable Planet Outside Solar System

Earth 2.0.

Cover image via wired

NASA announced on Twitter it had found a planet that shares similar characteristics to Earth, calling it Earth's older cousin

"Today, Earth is a little less lonely," Kepler researcher Jon Jenkins said.

Dubbed "Kepler-425b", the planet shares a similar size to Earth and is in the zone of the star it orbits that would allow it to have water on its surface. However, NASA still can't confirm if it has both water and air.

Image via Kepler mission

Kepler-452b orbits a star similar to our sun, and at about the same distances as Earth orbits the sun, meaning it has a similar length year and exists in the “habitable zone” where liquid water can exist on a planet.

NASA can't say for sure whether the planet is rocky like ours or has water and air, it's the closest match yet found.

Kepler-452b orbits around a parent star which belongs to the same class as the Sun, making it bigger and brighter. The planet takes 385 days to complete around a star, so its orbital period is 20 days more than the Earth's.

A comparison of the two solar systems.

Image via Quartz

The exact nature of the planet is not known specifically, but Nasa's modelling suggesters it is a rocky planet, about five times as massive as Earth, orbiting its star once every 385 days.

The planet was discovered as part of Kepler mission, which aims to look for sustainable and habitable planets in the Milky Way. Kepler has found over 4,000 planets in a period of six years.

An artist's impression of the Kepler Telescope.

Image via discover

The $600 million Kepler mission launched in 2009 with a goal to survey a portion of the Milky Way for habitable planets.

In addition to the 1,000 confirmed exoplanets, Kepler has found over 3,000 planet candidates that have yet to be verified.

Before the discovery of Kepler-425b, one called Kepler-186f was considered as having the most Earth-like attributes

Image via phl

The planet Kepler-186f held the “most similar” distinction (they get the common moniker, “Kepler,” because they were discovered with the Kepler space telescope). About 500 light-years from Earth, Kepler-186f is no more than 10 percent larger than Earth, and sails through its star’s habitable zone, making its surface potentially watery.

In 2017, NASA plans to launch a new satellite called TESS to replace Kepler. TESS will be able to provide more detailed and in-depth information of other planets in the solar system.

An artist's impression of TESS satellite.

Image via MIT

The search for more Earth-like planets will be greatly boosted by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), set to launch in 2017. TESS will be able to survey a much larger portion of the sky than Kepler can.

Space is a weird place and it can get pretty scary sometimes...

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