NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Bigger, Older Cousin to Earth: NASA Press Release

452b_system_comparison

While Kepler-452b is larger than Earth, its 385-day orbit is only 5 percent longer. The planet is 5 percent farther from its parent star Kepler-452 than Earth is from the Sun. Kepler-452 is 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than our sun, has the same temperature, and is 20 percent brighter and has a diameter 10 percent larger.

NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”

“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.”

— John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet — of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030.

“We can think of Kepler-452b as an older, bigger cousin to Earth, providing an opportunity to understand and reflect upon Earth’s evolving environment.”

— Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA’s Ames Research Center

“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 at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “This exciting result brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0.”

452b_artistconcept_comparisonwithearth

“We’ve been able to fully automate our process of identifying planet candidates, which means we can finally assess every transit signal in the entire Kepler dataset quickly and uniformly.”

Kepler-452b is 60 percent larger in diameter than Earth and is considered a super-Earth-size planet. While its mass and composition are not yet determined, previous research suggests that planets the size of Kepler-452b have a good chance of being rocky.

“This gives astronomers a statistically sound population of planet candidates to accurately determine the number of small, possibly rocky planets like Earth in our Milky Way galaxy.”

— Jeff Coughlin, Kepler scientist at the SETI Institute

While Kepler-452b is larger than Earth, its 385-day orbit is only 5 percent longer. The planet is 5 percent farther from its parent star Kepler-452 than Earth is from the Sun. Kepler-452 is 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than our sun, has the same temperature, and is 20 percent brighter and has a diameter 10 percent larger.

“We can think of Kepler-452b as an older, bigger cousin to Earth, providing an opportunity to understand and reflect upon Earth’s evolving environment,” said Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, who led the team that discovered Kepler-452b. “It’s awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth. That’s substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet.”

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

— Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA’s Ames Research Center

To help confirm the finding and better determine the properties of the Kepler-452 system, the team conducted ground-based observations at the University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory, the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory on Mt. Hopkins, Arizona, and the W. M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. These measurements were key for the researchers to confirm the planetary nature of Kepler-452b, to refine the size and brightness of its host star and to better pin down the size of the planet and its orbit.

The Kepler-452 system is located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. The research paper reporting this finding has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

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. Candidates require follow-up observations and analysis to verify they are actual planets. Read the rest of this entry »


NASA Just Discovered an Earth-like Planet

452b_artistconcept_beautyshot

In addition to the discovery of Kepler-452b, the scientists announced 11 more newly-found Earth-sized planets.

 reports: Some scientists believe we’re most likely to find life outside of Earth if we look beyond our solar system. Life, they think, could be present on some Earth-like planet orbiting a different sun thousands of light years away.

These earth-like planets do exist. Called exoplanets, they were discovered 20 years ago. But scientists haven’t found a planet that’s similar in size to Earth, orbiting a star similar to our sun, and traveling in a habitable zone (which means the planet is at the right temperature to harbor liquid water).

That is, until now.

Kepler 452b will forever be remembered as the first, second Earth or what NASA refers to as “Earth 2.0” ever discovered:

Here’s what we know so far about Earth 2.0:

  • It’s 60 percent larger than Earth.
  • It’s most likely rocket, meaning it has a solid surface as opposed to a gaseous one, like Jupiter.
  • It’s about 1,400 light years from Earth.
  • The star it’s orbiting is about 6 billion years old — 1.5 billion years older than our sun.
fig9-keplers_greatest_hits

NASA/JPL-CalTech/R. Hurt

Using NASA’s planet-hunting space telescope, called Kepler, a team announced today that Kepler 452b is the most Earth-like planet every discovered in history.

“This is about the closest, so far,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, during the announcement. Read the rest of this entry »


Astronaut Pee Turned Into Fuel

astronaut_urine_recycling

Alyssa Denigelis reports: It’s a classic fact that astronaut urine can be processed into drinkable water. Now a new bioreactor could turn the waste filtered from that pee into an energy source as well.

When water supplies run low on a space mission, astronaut urine can be treated to become drinking water. But the waste removed is still, well, waste. University of Puerto Rico scientists Eduardo Nicolau and Carlos R. Cabrera, working in collaboration with the NASA Ames Research Center, came up with a new approach to make use of the waste.

Read the rest of this entry »


Google Founders Saved Millions With NASA Ames Lease Deal

p3hanger

Google’s founders, Sergei Brin and Larry Page, have saved millions of dollars in fuel costs and property taxes through a lease deal with NASA Ames that allows them to house their private aircraft at Moffett Field, according to an investigation by NBC Bay Area. Read the rest of this entry »