Astronomers Discover Earth's Twin Planet

Publish Date
Friday, 24 July 2015, 7:31AM
This artist's rendering shows a comparison between the Earth, left, and the planet Kepler-452b. Photo- NZ Herald

This artist's rendering shows a comparison between the Earth, left, and the planet Kepler-452b. Photo- NZ Herald

Astronomers have found a planet they say is "the closest twin to Earth" ever seen.

Named Kepler-452b, it is the smallest planet discovered orbiting in the habitable zone of a star, and has been described as an "older, bigger cousin".

What makes this planet remarkable is that it orbits its star at about the same distance that Earth orbits the sun. What's more, its home star looks to be similar to our sun.

This Earth-like world has a "substantial opportunity" to host life, Nasa says, adding that if plants were transferred there, they would likely survive.

The planet is about 60 per cent bigger than Earth, and is located about 1,400 light years away in the constellation Cygnus.

Its discovery brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030.

Nasa has also found 12 new small habitable zone candidate planets, marking another milestone in the journey to finding another "Earth."

It is "the closest twin to Earth, or the Earth 2.0 that we've found so far in the dataset", said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of Nasa's Science Mission Directorate.

Kepler-452b is larger than Earth, but its 385-day orbit is only 5 per cent longer.

It resides in something known as the habitable zone - or Goldilocks zone - which is an area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet.

It is also 5 per cent farther from its parent star Kepler-452 than Earth is from the sun.

"This is so fascinating because Kepler 452b receives the same kind of spectrum and intensity of light as we do on Earth," said Dr Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University.

"This means plants from our planet could grow there if it were rocky and had an atmosphere.

"You could even get a healthy tan like here on holiday. Getting to our closest twin planet might take a while though, since it's 1,400 light years away."

Source- NZ Herald