NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone -- the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet -- of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030.
"One step closer to finding an Earth 2.0". With these words, John Grunsfeld, NASA researcher, announced this morning (July 23) that the Kepler mission has discovered Kepler-452b, an "old cousin of the Earth". This is the first discovered small planet orbiting in the habitable zone, which means that water can rise to the surface. Kepler-452b is located near a G2 type star similar to the sun.
One of the features that has stunned the NASA team is that the distance between the Kepler-452b and its star, called Kepler-452, is 5% farther than Earth's sun. The planet is 60% larger in diameter than the Earth and it is estimated that its surface is rocky.
Despite its size, this does not change further its movement. Kepler-452b has an orbit of 385 days. His star has an age of 6 billion years (1.5 billion years older than the Sun). "It's amazing to consider that this planet has been for 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star, much more than Earth. That is a substantial opportunity for the emergence of life as it should be all the ingredients and conditions necessary for life on this planet, "said Jon Jenkins, an analyst at Kepler data.
Kepler-452b is located at 1400 light years away in the constellation Cygnus. The research results will be published in The Astronomical Journal. Between 2009 and 2013, the Kepler mission has found 12 new planets whose diameter is between one and two times larger than Earth and are located in habitable zones with regard to their respective stars.
Representation of the results of NASA's Kepler mission, which seeks to small and habitable planets in the last six years. Image: NASA Ames / W. Stenzel.
ElComercioEcuador via NASA