July 23rd 2015 2:13 PM
NASA scientists reached an exciting milestone in the decades-long hunt for planets and possible life outside our solar system Wednesday with the announcement of the discovery of the most Earth-like planet yet.
Quickly dubbed "Earth 2.0" -- the planet, Kepler-452, is a near-Earth-size planet orbiting in what's commonly known as the habitable zone of a star much like our sun. The zone is considered important in the search for life because the temperatures allow for liquid water, which many scientists believe is crucial to fostering life as we know it.
Close cousins? Comparison between Earth and Kepler-452b and their host stars
Scientists using data from NASA's Kepler mission have confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. The habitable zone is the region around a star where temperatures are just right for water to exist in its liquid form.
The artistic concept compares Earth (left) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b, which is about 60 percent larger.
"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," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said of the discovery. "This exciting result brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0."
As NASA noted in its announcement, the planets have striking similarities.
Both planets orbit a G2-type star of about the same temperature; however, the star hosting Kepler-452b is 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than our sun. As stars age, they become larger, hotter and brighter, as represented in the illustration. Kepler-452b's star appears a bit larger and brighter
Although the planet is far too faint to be seen with the naked eye, stargazers looking to peer in its direction would want to glance toward the constellation Cygnus. The Kepler-452 system where the planet orbits its sun-like star is located 1,400 light-years away.
Scientists named Kepler-452b after the tool they used to find it. The Kepler Space Telescope has been used by the Kepler mission to identify thousands of planets far beyond our solar system.
As detection methods have improved, the number of planets Kepler scientists have been able to find proof of has skyrocketed. Those findings jumped wildly in 2014, when the discoveries quadrupled the prior year, jumping from around 200 in 2013 to more than 800.
Jonny , Chris and the Cubs