Memories of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey aside, yesterday NASA announced a breaking discovery. Scientists on the search for “alien” life have found the next best thing: a planet so alike ours they described it as the “closest twin to Earth.”
Called Kepler 452b, the Earth-like planet was discovered outside our own solar system along with 12 others deemed possibly “habitable.” But Kepler 452b stands out because scientists believe its surface to be rocky, probably with active volcanoes, just like ours, though with a gravitational pull twice as powerful as Earth’s.
Situated 1,400 light years away from Earth, the distance between Kepler 452b and the star from which it orbits is quite similar to our distance from the sun. This makes the length of a year about the same. Kepler 452b is also within what scientists call the “habitable zone” in which it’s possible for water to thrive on a planet given its atmospheric conditions.
NASA scientist Jon Jenkins said, “It is the closest thing that we have to another place that somebody might call home.” He added that Kepler 452b is like an “older, bigger first cousin” to Earth.
The scientists who made the discovery relied on four years’ worth of data and extremely advanced technology to make this historic find. But if you think about it, they’re really just trying to answer very fundamental questions. Is there a second home for humans aside from Earth? and more importantly, How alone are we in the universe?