Friday, July 24, 2015

SciFi Friday: NASA Introduces us to our Cousin - Kepler 452b

An artist concept of Kepler 452b.
T.Pyle/Jet Propulsion Lab/NASA
Thursday (July 23, 2015), NASA announced it has found a "cousin" to our planet. Named Kepler 452b (a very unappealing appellation), the newly discovered planet is approximately 1400 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Okay, for Ancient Aliens and Chariots of the Gods fans, it's no mystery why the guys and gals at NASA are pointing their telescopes in that direction. Several ancient civilizations believed that the "gods" came from Cygnus. Maybe they knew something that we're only now finding out?

NASA says that 452b has a 385 day orbit - a long year, but not ridiculously long (or overly short) as some planets they've found. And most importantly for the possibility of harboring life, 452b orbits a star that is similar to our sun and it sits in the so-called "Goldilocks" zone, likely not so cold that all water would be ice but no so hot as to burn it all away.

If you evolved on 452b, you'd likely be a strong and stocky sort. The gravity is estimated at twice that as on Earth. If we were able to beam there right now, we'd likely feel like we'd gained a lot of weight. No leaping for joy and frolicking in near weightlessness.

From both a science and a science fiction standpoint, it's also promising that the startsystem in which this planet sits is likely about 1.5 billion years older than our solar system. That means that there has been plenty of time for life to evolve (but the system isn't so old that the star has used up its fuel).

It's a very exciting find for NASA, the Kepler team and all of us who keep our eyes to the heavens. I wonder how many stories in the future will be set on this distant planet, our Earth's cousin? Surely we can come up with a better name for it!

What do you think we should name this new planet?

You can read the NYTimes article here and see more illustrations and news on NASA's Kepler website here.

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