NASA said Thursday that its Kepler spacecraft has spotted “Earth’s bigger, older cousin”: the first nearly Earth-size planet to be found in the habitable zone of a star similar to our own.
Though NASA says it can’t say for sure whether the planet is rocky like ours or has water and air, it’s the closest match yet found.
The planet, Kepler-452b, is about 1,400 light years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. It’s about 60% bigger than Earth, NASA says, and is located in its star’s habitable zone — the region where life-sustaining liquid water is possible on the surface of a planet.
A visitor there would experience gravity about twice that of Earth’s and while it’s a bit farther from its star than Earth is from the sun, its star is brighter, so the planet gets about the same amount of energy from its star as Earth does from the sun.
It even takes 385 days for the planet to orbit its star, very similar to Earth’s 365-day year, NASA said.
NASA has found other planets in the habitable zone, but they’ve been either too big or too close to their parent stars to support life.