Kepler 452b is not exactly a memorable name for a planet. It’s no Jupiter or Pluto or even Uranus. But boring name or not, Kepler 452b might just be the most important discovery in the history of NASA. Have we found another Earth? Kepler 452b is an exoplanet that could — and I repeat could — sustain life. The Earth-like planet lies in the so-called “habitable zone” of its solar system: close enough to its sun so that the planet’s water remains liquid. And its sun is actually brighter than our own, increasing the chances that Kepler-452b could host the necessary elements for life. Similar planets have been found before, but Kepler 452b seems to have all the right ingredients that alien enthusiasts look for. According to NASA, “Kepler-452b fires the planet hunter’s imagination because it is the most similar to the Earth-sun system found yet. A planet at the right temperature within the habitable zone, and only about one-and-a-half times the diameter of Earth, circling a star very much like our own sun.”
Now, before you put the tinfoil on your head, you should know that Kepler 452b is 1400 light years from Earth (more than 8,000 trillion miles away). It is in the constellation Cygnus. The discovery was made by NASA’s Kepler telescope. The “bigger, older cousin to Earth” (it’s about 60% bigger than Earth) might not sustain life, of course, or it might have done so at one point in the past. Because its star is a lot older than our sun, if anything, Kepler-452b might look a lot like Earth will a billion years from now.