Kepler Found Another Earth? Maybe?

Kepler 452b Artist Concept

Where in all the heavens could we look for another Earth?

For as long as man looked in awe at the night sky, we have wondered what’s out there and how do we fit into all that enormity? Are we alone?

As astronomers, physicists, mathematicians and other scientists proposed better theories and developed better tools to prove or disprove them, those questions led to new understanding as well as even more questions.

In all that head scratching came two questions I think are still rather profound.  Is there life on other planets besides Earth and are there other places in the universe like Earth that are habitable?  Both questions are similar, but the first is just looking for evidence of life no matter how small, while the second is looking to see if there are planets like Earth out there where more complicated life (like us) could thrive.

Perhaps we are even wondering if we could someday go there and survive, should either we or some cataclysmic event make Earth uninhabitable.

Well … NASA’s Kepler mission is starting to provide some of those answers – or is at least pointing us in the right direction. The announcement they just made has been covered on many outlets, but I think going to the original source is probably the best … and it is well worth the read.

Read the below article to find what Kepler found and share

 

Finding Another Earth

This artist’s conception of a planetary lineup shows habitable-zone planets with similarities to Earth

A newly discovered exoplanet, Kepler-452b, comes the closest of any found so far to matching our Earth-sun system. This artist’s conception of a planetary lineup shows habitable-zone planets with similarities to Earth: from left, Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, the just announced Kepler-452b, Kepler-62f and Kepler-186f. Last in line is Earth itself.

Credits: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltec

…… The discovery of a super-Earth-sized planet orbiting a sun-like star brings us closer than ever to finding a twin of our own watery world. But NASA’s Kepler space telescope has captured evidence of other potentially habitable planets amid the sea of stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

To take a brief tour of the more prominent contenders, it helps to zero in on the “habitable zone” around their stars. This is the band of congenial temperatures for planetary orbits — not too close and not too far. Too close and the planet is fried (we’re looking at you, Venus). Too far and it’s in deep freeze. But settle comfortably into the habitable zone, and your planet could have liquid water on its surface — just right. Goldilocks has never been more relevant. Scientists have, in fact, taken to calling this water-friendly region the “Goldilocks zone.”

…… About a dozen habitable zone planets in the Earth-size ballpark have been discovered so far — that is, 10 to 15 planets between one-half and twice the diameter of Earth, depending on how the habitable zone is defined and allowing for uncertainties about some of the planetary sizes.The new discovery, Kepler-452b, fires the planet hunter’s imagination because it is the most similar to the Earth-sun system found yet: a planet at the right temperature within the habitable zone, and only about one-and-a-half times the diameter of Earth, circling a star very much like our own sun. The planet also has a good chance of being rocky, like Earth, its discoverers say.

Kepler-452b is more similar to Earth than any system previously discovered. And the timing is especially fitting: 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the first exoplanet confirmed to be in orbit around a typical star.

…… Shuffle through the catalog of habitable zone planets, and the closest we can come to Earth — at least so far — appears to be the new kid on the interstellar block, Kepler-452b.NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

JPL is managed by The California Institute of Technology for NASA.

More information about Kepler is online at:

http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

More information about NASA’s planet-hunting efforts is online at:

http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov

A related news release about Kepler’s latest planetary find is online at: http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-kepler-mission-discovers-bigger-older-cousin-to-earth

Written by Pat Brennan, PlanetQuest

Whitney Clavin
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov

2015-244

Last Updated: July 23, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

See the entire Nasa article on Kepler-452b here …