NASA revealed the discovery of a planet similar to Earth at a news conference Thursday, based on data collected by the Kepler Space Telescope.
Kepler 452b is 60 percent larger than Earth, and orbits its sun within the habitable zone. This refers to the area in which liquid water is capable of forming on a planet’s surface.
John Grunsfeld, associated administrator of NASA’s science mission directorate, said that Kepler 452b was the “closest twin, so to speak, to Earth that we’ve found so far,” according to CBC.
The planet has a mass five times the size of Earth, and scientists believe that its atmosphere is thicker than ours. It is also believed that the planet has more active volcanoes.
The discovery of Kepler 452b marks the first time a G2 star, similar to our sun, has been discovered with a small planet orbiting it. The star is estimated to be 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than our sun.
“That’s substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet,” commented John Jenkins of NASA.
"It would feel a lot like him," he added.
The planet orbits 5 percent further away from its sun than Earth does.
“This is so fascinating because Kepler 452b receives the same kind of spectrum and intensity of light as we do on Earth,” Dr. Daniel Brown, astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University, stated, according to Daily Mail.
“This means plants from our planet could grow there if it were rocky and had an atmosphere,” he added.
Kepler 452b has been located approximately 1,400 light years from Earth. The data used to identify it was gathered by the Kepler Space Telescope after its launch in 2009.
The telescope has discovered over 4,000 potential planet candidates, and confirmed over 1,000 planets, CBC reported.
Officially, 1,030 known planets exist. There are 12 other planets considered to be the most likely candidates for supporting life. This judgment is based on whether they lie within the habitable zone, as well as their size.