Scientists have discovered an Earth-like planet about 1,400 light years away, and had named the “closest cousin” as Kepler 452b. NASA scientists believe that there could be about 1 billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way alone.
Kepler 452b is the smallest known planet outside the solar system, and it is in the habitable zone of G2-class star, similar to the Sun. The planet sits in the constellation Cygnus, 1,400 light years away from the Earth, 6 billion years old and about 60 percent larger than the Earth. The planet orbits around its own star in an orbit for 385 days, and temperatures are also warm enough to have liquid on the surface.
“Today the Earth is little less lonely, because there’s a new kid on the block,” said Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffet Field, Calif.
Since the 1990s, scientists have claimed that suns host their own planets, and in 1925 Edwin Hubble proved the existence of galaxies with stars similar to the Milky Way. In 1995, Swiss astrophysicists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz discovered the planet 51 Pegasi b, which was found to orbit a star. Since then the quest for discovering Earth-like planets have taken a leap with instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope, Canadian telescope MOST and Spitzer Space Telescope.
After Kepler launch in 2009, it has identified a total of 4,675 exoplanets including the Kepler 452b. Scientists have only limited detail about the planet, though they hope to explore more in the future. The quest for alien life is set to get a boost as James Webb Space Telescope and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is scheduled to start in a few years.
During Thursday’s conference, Dr. Queloz said that this a great time we’re living in. This is just the beginning of a very long journey, he added.