Astronomers have discovered a new exoplanet which could be the most similar to Earth ever recorded, NASA announced Thursday.
This planet is located in orbit around a distant star. It is the same distance from its star than the Earth from the Sun: it might well be possible to find water in the liquid state which would allow the existence of life.
Located 1400 light-years from Earth, the Kepler exoplanet dubbed 452b orbits a star whose characteristics are also very similar to the sun. Thus, this star is only 10% bigger and 10% brighter than our Sun, but is 1.5 billion years older.
The discovery of Kepler 452b “allows us to move forward to see how many habitable planets may exist” in our galaxy, succession Joseph Twicken, the scientist responsible for the Kepler mission scientist at SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute.
Kepler 452b has a radius 60% larger than Earth and is very likely to be rocky with a thick atmosphere and a large amount of water. It could also experience volcanic activity, according to the astronomers.
Kepler 452b is part of twelve new exoplanets in the catalog of the discoveries of Kepler telescope. To qualify, these exoplanets should have a diameter that is less than twice that of Earth and must be in orbit around a star at a distance, neither too hot nor too cold, where water can exist in liquid state on the surface. This potentially make them habitable.
Of the twelve candidate exoplanets, Kepler 452b is the first to be confirmed as a planet by other observations with ground-based telescopes.
“The continuation of the study of other exoplanets candidates in this catalog, and a final review of other scientific data from Kepler will help us find the smallest planets and interesting,” also explained Joseph Twicken.
“This will also allow us to better assess the frequency of habitable worlds” outside our solar system, he added.
The fact that the star around which revolves Kepler 452b is 1.5 billion years older than the Sun that it is very similar also can give us an idea of what could happen to the Earth in the distant future.
“If Kepler 452b is a rocky planet, its position relative to its star could indicate that it has entered a period of strong warming in the history of the climate,” notes Doug Caldwell, a SETI astronomer who working on the Kepler mission.
“The increase in the energy released by the aging star could heat the surface and cause evaporation from the oceans, which would find it, resulting in the loss forever of water on the planet”, he said.
“Kepler and 452b may currently suffer what the earth will experience in more than a billion years when the sun will age and become brighter,” says the scientist.
The catalog of the NASA Kepler discoveries currently has a total of 4,696 exoplanet candidates.
Kepler, a mission of 600 million dollars, peered over 150,000 stars after its launch in 2009 in search of planets beyond our solar system.
Space telescope broke down in mid-2013 when two of its gyroscopes stopped working. Exoplanets discussed Thursday by NASA had been observed before Kepler fails.