Are We Alone In The Universe?

Discovery of Earth 2.0

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© 2017 NASA/JPL-Caltech/T.Pyle

This week NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope spotted a rocky planet orbiting a Sun-like star at nearly the same distance that Earth orbits our own Sun. 

It’s pretty incredible, and it’s true. This week NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope spotted a rocky planet orbiting a Sun-like star at nearly the same distance that Earth orbits our own Sun.

What does that mean? That this planet is potentially the most habitable planet we have ever found, and could be Earth 2.0.

Known as Kepler 452b, it is located 1,400 light-years from us. The star is 4% more massive and 10% brighter than our own sun, and the planet is 1.6 times the size of Earth (so it’s Super Earth). As it is a bit too far to take a spaceship to, we aren’t certain about a lot of things. However, scientists all seem to agree that the planet must be rocky due to its size and the kind of star it is orbiting. They also believe the planet will be about five times the mass of the Earth - which means, based on its size and mass, that there should be active volcanism on the surface.

Squarely placed in the habitable zone, (think Goldie Locks: not too hot and not too cold) it means that liquid water is a real possibility! 

Actually, it has 385 Earth days, and is 5% further than Earth from its own star, but it is still squarely placed in the habitable zone (think Goldie Locks: not too hot, and not too cold). That means liquid water is a real possibility!

Some of you may recall that last year we discovered Kepler 186f, which was more similar in size to Earth, and was also in a habitable zone. However, it orbited a red dwarf star, which is much smaller and cooler than the Sun.

 

Kepler 452b, orbits nearly a perfect clone to our own Sun, though, and that’s pretty exciting! Kepler 452b’s star, however, is 1.5 billion years older than our Sun. That means a couple of things: firstly, that this star has much more energy, and therefore, whatever liquid water that is currently on the surface will evaporate quickly. This means that every day that goes by, the planet becomes less inhabitable. However, this is a pretty spectacular view of the future of Earth.

“If Kepler 452b is indeed a rocky planet, its location vis-a-vis its star could mean that it is just entering a runaway greenhouse phase of its climate history,” Doug Caldwell, a SETI Institute scientist working on the Kepler mission, said in a statement. “Kepler 452b could be experiencing now what the Earth will undergo more than a billion years from now, as the Sun ages and grows brighter.”

Scientists will continue the search for other habitable planets, and who knows? Perhaps we will finally prove that we are not alone in the universe.