At a press conference on Thursday NASA announced the discovery of a new planet which closely resembles Earth. The planet, which has been named Kepler-452b, is located in a so-called habitable zone and orbits a sun-like star.
“This exciting discovery takes us one step closer to finding Earth version 2.0” said NASA scientist John Grunsfeld. According to Grunsfeld Kepler-452b resembles our planet more than any other previously discovered planets. Kepler-452b was discovered by the Kepler telescope, which was launched into space in 2009. The telescope broke two years ago, but before that it transmitted vast amounts of data, which it will take NASA years to analyze.
The planet orbits its star at a distance comparable to the distance between the Earth and the sun, which means it finds itself in the habitable zone. This in turn means there is a possibility water may exist in liquid form on Kepler-452b, an essential prerequisite for life as we know it on our planet.
NASA does not exclude the chances that there could be life on Kepler-452b, but highlight that it will take decades before they can collect data to disprove or confirm this. Kepler-452b is located in the Milky Way a mere 1,400 light years away, so a spacecraft traveling at the speed of light would still take decades to get there.
Jeff Coughlin at NASA believes we are generations away from being able to launch such a mission: “You and I probably won’t be travelling to these planets — but our children’s children could be. This gives us something to aim for.”