Scientists stunned to discover ‘alien Earth’ with glitchy Kepler telescope

Scientists stunned to discover ‘alien Earth’ with glitchy Kepler telescope

The finding is the best lead yet for scientists who hope to find another planet out there that is perfect for support life -- like Earth.

NASA’s Kepler space telescope has been powering through a malfunction two years ago to make astonishing discoveries, like that of Kepler-452b, the “alien Earth” that most resembles our own planet in terms of its habitability.

It was last Thursday when NASA scientists announced that they had discovered Kepler-452b, the most Earth-like exoplanet yet found because it circles a star much like our own sun at a distance that makes it relatively tolerable for water-based forms of life, even though the planet is about 60 percent wider, according to a report.

However, it’s the closest planet scientists have found that might be a host to life outside of our solar system.

The data that led to finding Kepler-452b is actually a couple years old, pulled from data gathered by the space telescope in the first four years of its original planet hunt that ended in 2013.

Kepler’s main mission — which cost $600 million — was to find out how many Earth-like planets there are in our own Milky Way galaxy. Kepler examined 150,000 stars, looking for changes in brightness that would indicate a planet crossing in front of it. Kepler suffered a hiccup when the second of four orientation maintaining reaction wheels stopped working in May 2013, but the mission powered on.

We won’t be able to visit Kepler-452b anytime soon, unfortunately. The planet is 1,400 light years from Earth — meanwhile, we’re still trying to figure out how to get to Mars, which is a tiny fraction of just one light year away.

Could more discoveries of Earth-like planets be forthcoming? Scientists think so, once improvements are made to software and analysis techniques, which could allow more Earth-like planets to be found more quickly.

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