NASA has just announced the discovery of an earth-like planet orbiting a star similar to our sun, and within the star’s habitable zone. The planet has been designated Kepler-452b, and is the first such planet ever discovered. So far, nearly 4000 planets have been discovered in so-called ‘goldilocks zones’ around distant stars–regions where they are neither too hot nor too cold to sustain life. But all of these planets have been determined to be either very small, very large, or gas giants. Kepler-452b is a "bigger cousin of Earth." It has a 385 day orbit and is 5% farther from its star than Earth is from the sun. Its parent star is Kepler-452. It also has gravity twice that of Earth’s.

Kepler-452 is 1,400 light years from Earth, and is slightly brighter than the sun, meaning that Kepler-452b receives approximately the same amount of solar energy as Earth does. The planet is 60% larger than Earth, and its solar system is considerably older.

Earlier this week Professor Stephen Hawking and the Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees announced they were joining a $100 million project to seek out signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence in the Milky Way.

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