A planet thought to be remarkably similar to Earth and orbiting a distant sun-like star has been discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, US scientists said on Thursday.
The discovery bolsters hopes of life existing in other parts of the universe.
The planet is estimated to be 60 percent bigger than Earth and is located 1,400 light years away in the constellation Cygnus.
“In my mind, this is the closest thing we have to another planet like the Earth,” astronomer Jon Jenkins told reporters.
The planet, called Kepler-452b is also estimated to have orbited a star that is over 6 billion years old compared to the 4.6 billion-year age of the sun.
“It’s simply awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star,” Jenkins said.
“That’s considerable time and opportunity for life to arise somewhere on its surface or in its oceans should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet,” he said.
Kepler-452b is positioned as far from Earth as our planet is away from the sun and complets an orbit in 385 days compared to Earth’s 365-day orbit.
At that distance, surface temperatures would be suitable for the existence of liquid water, a condition believed to be critical for life.
NASA launched the Kepler telescope in 2009 to sample nearby stars and learn if planets like earth were common in our galaxy.