Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

NASA Discovers 'Earth's Bigger, Older Cousin'

Science

NASA announced yesterday that its Kepler spacecraft has discovered "the first near-Earth-size planet in the 'habitable zone' around a sun-like star." NASA believes there may be up to another 11 other "new small habitable zone candidate planets," marking "another milestone in the journey to finding another 'Earth,'" according to the agency's press release.

The $600 million Kepler mission started in 2009 to survey the Milky Way for habitable planets. To date, it has discovered more than 1,000 planets. "Twelve of the new planet candidates have diameters between one to two times that of Earth, and orbit in their star's habitable zone. Of these, nine orbit stars that are similar to our sun in size and temperature," says NASA.

A "habitable zone" is "the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet," or put in simpler terms, it's the Goldilocks zone—not too hot and not too cold, so water neither freezes nor boils. "Though NASA can't say for sure whether the planet is rocky like ours or has water and air, it's the closest match yet found," reports CNN.

Scientists say the planet has a "good chance of being rocky" and a visitor would experience gravity twice that of Earth's. "On the 20th anniversary year of the discovery that proved other suns host planets, the Kepler exoplanet explorer has discovered a planet and star which most closely resemble the Earth and our Sun," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “This exciting result brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0."

The new planet, Kepler-452b, is an "older, bigger cousin to Earth, providing an opportunity to understand and reflect upon Earth’s evolving environment," NASA scientist Jon Jenkins said. The planet, which is 60 percent larger than Earth, is located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. "Because it's spent so long orbiting in this zone—6 billion years—it's had plenty of time to brew life," Jenkins said. "That's substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet."

And there could be more planets similar to this one out there. "In addition to confirming Kepler-452b, the Kepler team has increased the number of new exoplanet candidates by 521 from their analysis of observations conducted from May 2009 to May 2013, raising the number of planet candidates detected by the Kepler mission to 4,696," says NASA. An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star other than our Sun, a stellar remnant or a brown dwarf. Nearly 2,000 exoplanets have been discovered to date. If just half of all the potential 4,700 exoplanet candidates turn out to be planets, that would more than double the number of known exoplanets in the universe.

Check out this video from NASA explaining the newly discovered planet:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Tom Steyer: 50% Clean Energy by 2030

Obama Administration Grants Shell Final Permits to Start Drilling in Arctic Ocean

A Clean Energy Future: Why It Pays to Get There First

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a crude oil storage facility of Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) in the Krasnodar Territory. Vitaly Timkiv / TASS / Getty Images

Oil rigs around the world keep pulling crude oil out of the ground, but the global pandemic has sent shockwaves into the market. The supply is up, but demand has plummeted now that industry has ground to a halt, highways are empty, and airplanes are parked in hangars.

Read More Show Less
Examples (from left) of a lead pipe, a corroded steel pipe and a lead pipe treated with protective orthophosphate. U.S. EPA Region 5

Under an agreement negotiated by community groups — represented by NRDC and the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project — the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) will remove thousands of lead water pipes by 2026 in order to address the chronically high lead levels in the city's drinking water and protect residents' health.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

By Dave Cooke

So, they finally went and did it — the Trump administration just finalized a rule to undo requirements on manufacturers to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger cars and trucks. Even with the economy at the brink of a recession, they went forward with a policy they know is bad for consumers — their own analysis shows that American drivers are going to spend hundreds of dollars more in fuel as a result of this stupid policy — but they went ahead and did it anyway.

Read More Show Less

By Richard Connor

A blood test that screens for more than 50 types of cancer could help doctors treat patients at an earlier stage than previously possible, a new study shows. The method was used to screen for more than 50 types of cancer — including particularly deadly variants such as pancreatic, ovarian, bowel and brain.

Read More Show Less
Ian Sane / Flickr

Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control showed a larger number of young people coming down with COVID-19 than first expected, with patients under the age of 45 comprising more than a third of all cases, and one in five of those patients requiring hospitalization. That also tends to be the group most likely to use e-cigarettes.

Read More Show Less