NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope (above) has discovered an Earth-like planet within our galaxy. The planet, given the designation Kepler-452b, is thought to be older and larger than the Earth, but with a similar atmosphere and gravity that could be capable of sustaining life.
The Kepler Space Telescope was launched in March 2009, and during its lifespan has discovered over 1,000 new planets, but the discovery of Kepler-452b is considered to be its most important discovery to date.
A NASA statement reads, “Today, and thousands of discoveries later, astronomers are on the cusp of finding something people have dreamed about for thousands of years – another Earth.”
Kepler-452b appears to be what NASA calls a ‘Goldilocks’ planet, positioned within a zone not too close and not too far from the star that it orbits, ideal for sustaining life. It has twice the land mass of the Earth, has a 380-day year, and its atmosphere is capable of producing cloud cover and a rain cycle.
Jeff Coughlin, Kepler research scientist at SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, thinks that this discovery is just the beginning. “Is this the end? Hell no!” he said at the press conference announcing the discovery.