Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

NASA Has Discovered A New 'Earth' That Could Support Life

kepler7.jpg

Kepler-452b. Remember the name. 

It might sound like a small, fiddly part that a plumber is going to have to pick up to fix your washing machine (arrival time, four to six years), but Kepler-452b is currently the closest thing we've got to "Earth 2.0". 

Revealed at a press conference discussing the latest discoveries of the Kepler mission (which you can read up about here), Kepler-452b is the first near-Earth-sized exoplanet (a planet that sits within a solar system other than our own) that NASA has discovered sitting in a habitable zone - an orbital sweet spot that isn't too hot, nor to cold, but just right for forming liquid water, and thus holding the potential for supporting life.

Kepler

An artist's impression of Earth (left) and her new cousin

"On the 20th anniversary year of the discovery that proved other suns host planets, the Kepler exoplanet explorer has discovered a planet and star which most closely resemble the Earth and our Sun," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. "This exciting result brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0."

There are some significant differences between Earth and its "cousin" 452b: its diameter is roughly 60 percent larger, it has a 385-day orbit and it's five percent further away from its parent star, Kepler-452. With an age of around 6 billion years, this star is 10 percent bigger, 20 percent brighter and much older than our own sun - by approximately 1.5 billion years.

The aspect of all these formidable numbers that's getting NASA most excited is that 452b has been spinning around a habitable zone for a much longer period of time than we have on Earth: this newly discovered planet has had 6 billion years of life-forming potential, while Earth has held the potential for life for 3.5 billion years. This means that not only could 452b have a head start on forming life, it could also hold clues as to how our own planet will behave as it ages.

Kepler

"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," said Jon Jenkins, Kepler Data Analysis Lead at NASA's Ames Research Center, who led the team that discovered Kepler-452b.

It's a huge discovery - but don't get excited about missions to Earth's cousin within our lifetime. The Kepler-452 system is located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, so we'll need to make some huge leaps in interstellar travel if we stand a chance of sending a probe to have a nose around. 

NASA also revealed that its Kepler mission has discovered a further 521 exoplanet candidates, with 12 of these planets having diameters between one to two times that of Earth, and sitting in their star's habitable zone. As further analysis is conducted on the discoveries, Earth could soon find itself with a growing list of distant relatives.

You never know, one of them could call us for a family reunion any day now.

[Via: NASA]

Related

amiga500big.jpg

Why the Amiga 500 was the greatest computer ever made

contactless.PNG

Your Contactless Card Isn't As Safe As You Think

halo.PNG

Scientific Proof That Men Who Troll Are Losers

jeep.jpg

Could 'Car Hacking' Be The Next Cyber Crime Craze?

tab4.jpg

Samsung reveals its iPad-beater

applecar2.jpg

This is the guy who'll be building the Apple Car

Comments

More

This might be the greatest Rocket League goal ever scored

They think it's all Rover

by Gary Ogden
20 Feb 2017

Crash Bandicoot: the greatest game I ever played

As its PS4 return is announced, one writer salutes one of the best platformers of them all

by Ryan Young
17 Feb 2017

TFL has been tracking you on the tube and the data is fascinating

Catnip for the tube heads

by Dave Fawbert
15 Feb 2017

20 Things You'll Only Understand If You Owned A Nokia 3310

14 Feb 2017

The Nokia 3310 is getting a relaunch (yes, really)

The return of the King

by Gary Ogden
14 Feb 2017

The new iPhone looks like it's going to have wireless charging

A huge move from Apple

by Dave Fawbert
13 Feb 2017

Things no one wants to hear on social media

We need to establish some house rules

by David Cornish
10 Feb 2017

Finding those hidden Netflix codes just became much easier

This could be a game-changer

08 Feb 2017

This artist turned the Apple T&Cs into a really cool graphic novel

We've never wanted to read a contract more!

by Sam Diss
07 Feb 2017

Francis Ford Coppola wants you to crowdfund an Apocalypse Now game

And it looks like it could be very disturbing indeed

by Jamie Carson
26 Jan 2017