A Near-Earth-size Planet Isn’t Necessarily JUST Like Earth
A artist’s concept of Kepler-452b, a near-Earth-sized planet discovered by the Kepler space telescope. Courtesy NASA/Kepler
The news last week that the Kepler telescope had found a close “cousin” of Earth circling a sun-like star really brought out the speculation among people who don’t actually study planets for a living. The press, of course, ran with the story, calling it “Earth 2.0″ and “Earth-like”, neither of which is quite true. However, despite the tendency of supermarket rags as well as serious press to jump on stories like this and carry them to illogical extremes, the discovery of this planet IS a milestone in exoplanet research.
Kepler-452b IS likely to be a rocky world similar to Earth, although astronomers haven’t confirmed that yet. It’s in the habitable zone of its star, so that means liquid water could exist on its surface. Whether it has water, or even an atmosphere, is all still to be determined. This planet is near-Earth-size, meaning it’s close to our planet’s size. Actually, it’s 60 percent larger than Earth, and its 385-day year is slightly longer than our 365-day year. It’s about a billion and a half years older ...