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NASA announced the discovery of 12 new habitable zone planets, including one identified as Earth’s “bigger, older cousin” on July 23, 2015.

NASA’s Kepler mission is responsible for the discovery of over 1,000 planets in total, but one, Kelper-452b, is remarkable because it is the smallest planet discovered orbiting in a star’s habitable zone, a set of orbits where environmental conditions could facilitate the presence of liquid water.

John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate said the result brings us one step closer to finding Earth 2.0:

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…

According to NASA, Kepler 452-b is 60 percent larger than Earth and has an orbital period of 385 days, which is 5 percent longer than Earth’s year.  Kepler 452-b is also 1.5 billion years older, checking in a 6 billion years old.

Ground based observations from the University of Texas-Austin’s McDonald Observatory, the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory on Mount Hopkins in Arizona, and the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii confirmed the size and orbit of the planet, as well as the size and brightness of the star the planet is orbiting.

Kepler-452 is 1,400 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

Kepler 452-b is the best candidate discovered by the Kepler mission thus far to have life on it.  Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, said the following:

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.

12 of the new planets are between one and two times the diameter of Earth and have orbits in their star’s habitable zones.  Of the 12, nine orbit stars with size and temperature comparable with our sun.

Todd Wohling

A long time ago on an Intellivision far, far away my gaming journey started with Lock n' Chase, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons The Cloudy Mountain, and Night Stalker. I earned both a BS-Physics and a BS-Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Today I spend most of my time on PC. I left a career of 14 years in aerospace in Colorado, so I could immigrate to Norway.

  • Pesty

    I wonder what the difference in local gravity is like on a world 1.5 times larger than ours. It’s also interesting to speculate on, if there is indeed life on 452-b, how has stronger gravity affected the evolution of species there? Though I suspect that may be a smaller factor than climate and atmosphere, if our own evolutionary history is any useful indicator.

  • Todd Wohling

    Size is only part of the equation in terms of gravity of the planet itself. As a rule of thumb, it’s likely the local gravity on 452-b is higher than on Earth.
    From an evolutionary perspective, anything living on 452-b would have evolved to handle the higher local gravity. Anyone from Earth on 452-b would be at a relative disadvantage, and anyone from 452-b would have an advantage on Earth. In extreme cases, it is possible the gravity on 452-b would be great enough to create surface air pressure large enough to make it hard/impossible for Terrans to breath unassisted.

  • Smoky_the_Bear

    “anyone from 452-b would have an advantage on Earth”