Earth’s Cousin Kepler-452b Is Hanging Around at 1,400 Light Years

by Sankalan Baidya

So, maybe we are not that lonely in this universe as we think of. Maybe, there is hope for finding life just around the corner. The Kepler Spacecraft of NASA has identified a planet which they are calling as a bit older and also a bit bigger cousin of Earth. This exoplanet has been cataloged as Kepler-452b.

So, what do we call this exoplanet apart from Kepler-452b? Maybe, Goliath Earth! Or, perhaps, Earth 2.0. Okay, we think we better stick with the catalog name that NASA has chosen.

The announcement for the discovery of this new exoplanet came from NASA on July 23, 2015. However, the scientists at NASA are yet to find out whether the planet has air, liquid water and a rocky surface or not. Still, the scientists do believe that it is indeed one of the closest matches to Earth they have found so far.

As of now, here are a few Kepler-452b facts as per NASA:

  • The exoplanet sits at a distance of 1,400 light years from our home orb.
  • The exoplanet is located in Cygnus constellation.
  • Kepler-452b is nearly 60% massive compared to Earth (which is about 5 times the mass of Earth).
  • This exoplanet, scientists at NASA assume, have twice the gravity as found on Earth.
  • The exoplanet takes 385 days to orbit around its star compared to Earth’s 365 days’ orbital period.
  • Kepler-452b is spent about 6 billion years in its star’s habitable zone.
  • Jon Jenkins, researcher at Kepler mission thinks that there is certainly an atmosphere around the exoplanet but he is not sure about the composition of the atmosphere.

Apart from these facts, here are some interesting thoughts put forward by Jon Jenkins:

  • The exoplanet has been hanging out there in the habitable zone of its star – the Kepler-452 for about 6 billion years now, which is ample time to allow life to thrive there.
  • The exoplanet is a bit farther away from its own star compared to the distance of our home orb from our Sun. Still, since the star of the exoplanet is bigger and brighter, 10% more energy hits the planet from its star compared to the energy our home orb receives from our Sun.

Scientists at NASA say that assuming Kepler-452b was of the exact same size as Earth, the extra energy that the exoplanet receives would have surely led to what is known as ‘runaway greenhouse effect’. Because of this effect, the water supply (if at all it is present on the exoplanet) would deplete. However, because Kepler-452b is 60% more massive than our Earth, the possibility of the runaway greenhouse effect can be overlooked for another 500 million years or so.

Jenkins also says that it is highly possible that Kepler-452b’s atmosphere will be thicker than what we find on our own planet and the possibility of active volcanoes is also high.

The Kepler mission was launched back in 2009 and since then, 1000 exoplanets have been discovered by it. One of its previous discoveries – the Kepler-186f was thought to be the closest relative to Earth in terms of similarities. However, Kepler-452b has currently stolen the crown.

In 2017, NASA plans on launching TESS – a satellite designed specifically for hunting down exoplanets. Interestingly, TESS will be loaded with some state-of-the-art advanced technology that will allow the satellite to grab some incredible details like planet atmosphere, planet mass and size etc. The following year, i.e. 2018 will see the launch of James Webb Space Telescope which will get better details compared to TESS like color of the exoplanets, weather, presence of vegetation, seasonal differences etc.

Mankind is definitely making big leaps with the ultimate aim of finding answer to one simple question – ‘Are we alone in this universe?’ It is just a matter of time before we find out the answer. What will happen then? Will we encounter intelligent species beyond our comprehending capabilities or will we just say hello to little green microbes through our microscopes? Again, time will tell!


Sources: 1, 2

All Images Taken From NASA WEBSITE.

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