Kit Steinkellner
July 25, 2015 10:52 am

It’s been kind of lonely being the only planet that we knew of in the universe that could support life as we knew it. Yes, we have over 7 billion other people on Earth to keep us company, plus all the animals and stuff, BUT STILL, it was lonely times staring up at the sky at night and wondering to ourselves “Are we really it?”

NASA to the rescue! As the space agency just reported, we may actually NOT be it. As NASA reports, their Kepler mission has just confirmed “the first near-Earth-size planet in the ‘habitable zone’ around a sun-like star.” GO NASA!

So let’s get the stats on Kepler-452b AKA “Earth’s Maybe Twin.” It’s located 1,400 light years away from us in the constellation Cygnus. When NASA says it’s a “near-Earth-size planet,” what it means is it’s actually 60% bigger than Earth (cool, more elbow room) but it’s the closest we’ve come thus far to finding a planet close to Earth’s size in a habitable zone.

NASA doesn’t know yet whether “Earth’s Maybe Twin” (I know, I know, it’s Kepler-452b, but that name  has ZERO personality) is rocky like Earth, or has water and air (you know, all those super-critical factors that sustain life as we know it). That said, Kepler’s data analysis lead Jon Jenkins vouches that the planet “almost certainly has an atmosphere.” What that atmosphere is made of, scientists can’t say. But let’s give credit where it’s due- SOME atmosphere is way better than, you know, NONE.

Also, important to note, the planet gets about the same amount of light and energy from the star it orbits as we do from our sun, and Earth’s Maybe Twin takes 385 days to orbit its star, which is VERY close to our 365-day orbit, and, as Jenkins says, he wouldn’t be surprised at all if this “older, bigger, cousin” to Earth was currently home to life.

“It’s awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth,” Jenkins pointed out. “That’s substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet.”

So when do we find out if Older, Bigger Cousin to Earth (giving you guys an alternate nickname in case you hate Earth’s Maybe Twin) actually has life on it? As CNN reports, the James Webb Space Telescope will go up, and will provide insights into these newly-discovered planets, “including their color, seasonal differences, weather and even the potential presence of vegetation.”

We’re excited! Till then, we’ll keep looking up at the stars imagining all the sweetheart E.T.’s and Ewoks we’ll meet someday soon.

Related:

Everything you need to know about Ceres, the dwarf planet scientists can’t stop talking about

This badass 13-year-old girl could be the first human on Mars

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