Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

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

Food Tank

By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz

With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Unhealthy foods play a primary role in many people gaining weight and developing chronic health conditions, more now than ever before.

Read More Show Less
A man pushes his mother in a wheelchair down Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami on May 19, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.

Read More Show Less
To better understand how people influence the overall health of dolphins, Oklahoma State University's Unmanned Systems Research Institute is developing a drone to collect samples from the spray that comes from their blowholes. Ken Y. / CC by 2.0

By Jason Bruck

Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.

Read More Show Less

Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus

On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks. jacqueline / CC by 2.0

By Kelli McGrane

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.

Read More Show Less