NASA has beeen aggressively looking for an earth-like planet for over a decade and many findings of planets proved futile owing to non-habitable or hostile conditions but the one found and named Kepler 452b is two-thirds similar, if not exactly the twin.
The new earth-like planet has 385 days and twice the gravity, rocky surface and orbits its own Sun, with possible volcanoes, oceans, sunshine, said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator. But it is 1,400 light-years away, making it difficult to reach in the near future.
The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet found orbiting in the habitable zone with enough distance from its star or the Sun where liquid water could pool on the surface.
Hesitant to annouce similar findings in the past, NASA this time unilaterally opened up about the new planet with aplomb. “Today we are announcing the discovery of an exoplanet that, as far we can tell, is a pretty good close cousin to the Earth and our Sun,” said Grunsfeld at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
Terming it Earth 2.0, Grunsfeld said “This is about the closest so far.” Located in the Goldilocks zone of its star, the planet is neither too hot nor too cold, supportive to water resources and amenable for life to survive, said the US space agency, giving other details that the Kepler 452b’s Sun could be 1.5 billion years older, 4% more massive and 10% brighter than our Sun.
Jeff Coughlin, Kepler research scientist at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in Mountain View, California, says that the our children’s children may plan to head to it, if there is a breakthrough in reaching such distance in a short period of few years.
“You and I probably won’t be traveling to any of these planets without some unexpected breakthrough, but you know, our children’s children’s children may,” he said.
However, Doug Caldwell. another scientist working at SETI, believes that Ke[ler 452b could be facing fast evaporation of its water resources due to the over-heating and aged Sun, entering the greenhouse effect. “Its location vis-a-vis its star could mean that it is just entering a runaway greenhouse phase of its climate history,” he said.
But Jenkins is optimistic as this planet is protected for 500 million years or so, from experiencing the runaway greenhouse (effect), assuming that it is six billion years old.
The Kepler mission has been exploring exoplanets since 2009 with its catalogue reaching a total of 4,696 and the Kepler-452b could be the 1,030 planet in the list. About 12 planets have been found hiabitable in the list.
As aging Kepler mission will be replaced with TESS (Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite) to launched in 2017, the search for earth-like planet will find momentum. in December, NASA announced finding an exoplanet HIP 116454b, that is 2.5 times the diameter of Earth and follows a close, nine-day orbit around a star that is smaller and cooler than our sun, making the planet too hot for life. The HIP 116454b and its star are 180 light-years from Earth, toward the constellation Pisces.