Kepler 452b is an alien world recently examined by astronomers that may be a near-twin of the Earth. Researchers from NASA and other scientific organizations believe this explanet may, however, be older and larger than our home planet.
Kepler 452b is the first Earth-like planet ever discovered orbiting an alien star within that body's habitable zone. This region, also known as "The Goldilocks Zone," is the distance from a star where conditions are neither too hot, nor too cold to make life likely.
Analysis of Kepler 452b could bring astronomers one step closer to finding life in an alien solar system.
"Kepler-452b is 60 percent larger in diameter than Earth and is considered a super-Earth-size planet. While its mass and composition are not yet determined, previous research suggests that planets the size of Kepler-452b have a good chance of being rocky," NASA officials report on their website.
Just 20 years ago, exoplanets were mere theoretical concepts. Today, astronomers now know of 1,030 confirmed alien worlds, orbiting hundreds of suns. A total of nearly 4,700 candidate planets await confirmation by astronomers and physicists. Of these, 12 are between one and two times the size of the Earth, and nine of those worlds orbit stars much like the sun.
Discovery of Kepler 452b could be a significant advance in the search for life on other worlds. After other such worlds are found, astronomers could hone in on these areas in the search for radio waves or telltale signs of life hidden in chemistry.
"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," Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA's Ames Research Center, said.
This newly-confirmed exoplanet is six billion years old, roughly one-third older than our home world.
This Earth-like alien world orbits its parent star, Kepler 452, at a distance just five percent farther than the space between our home planet and the sun. This newly-discovered alien world is roughly 10 percent larger than our own planet, is believed to have similar temperatures and reflects 20 percent more light back to space than our home world.
The Kepler 452 system is located 1,400 light years from Earth, seen in the constellation Cygnus. The research team utilized several ground-based observatories to confirm data recorded during the original Kepler mission in space.
More planets like our home world may still be discovered hidden within data from the original Kepler data. New software allows astronomers to comb through the data with an unprecedented level of sensitivity.
An article detailing the analysis of Kepler 452b was accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.