NASA May Have Found Another Earth

Photo: Courtesy Of NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle.
Earth might have a bigger, older cousin in an equally "habitable zone" in space where water can form on the planet's surface. Could we not be alone in this universe?

The NASA Kepler mission, which has been scouting the Milky Way for Earth-sized (or smaller) planets, has recently confirmed that it found the first almost Earth-sized planet in a habitable zone some 1,400 light years away, orbiting a star that's pretty much like our sun.

This is what we know so far, according to the NASA press release: Kepler-452b, as the planet is called, is 60% larger than Earth in diameter. It has a 385-day orbit and is just slightly further away from its star (5%) than Earth is from the sun.

“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," Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA's Ames Research Center, said in a press release. According to Jenkins, this is the closest Earth-like planet Kepler has found. So far, 4,696 planets have been detected by the mission.

We can think of Kepler-452b as an older, bigger cousin to Earth

Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA
The parent star, Kepler-452, is currently six billion years old — 1.5 billion years older than our sun. This means that the star 20% brighter, 10% larger, and it's growing hotter and brighter, which will eventually dry the planet out (much like our sun, eventually). Whether there is life on Kepler-452b has yet to be seen, although it could be possible, since the planet is in the habitable zone. If water exists on this planet, it could potentially pool on the surface and create oceans, like on Earth.

According to NASA, Kepler-452b's terrain would likely be "rocky" and the larger mass means that surface gravity would also be higher — but not by a crazy amount. It's a stark contrast to Kepler-78b, discovered last year, which is so close to its sun that temps are 2,000 degrees hotter than on Earth, according to

"It’s awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent six billion years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth," Jenkins said. "That’s substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet.”

More from Tech