Astronomers Discover Most Earth-Like Planet Yet

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. (Reuters) -

A planet surprisingly similar to Earth and potentially capable of sustaining life has been discovered in a “habitable zone” around a distant sun-like star, U.S. scientists said on Thursday.

The planet, which is about 60 percent bigger than Earth, is located about 1,400 light years away in the constellation Cygnus. It was discovered using NASA’s Kepler space telescope and circles a star that is similar in size and temperature to the sun.

Dubbed Kepler-452b, the planet is positioned about as far from its parent star as Earth is from the sun. At that distance, surface temperatures would be suitable for liquid water.

NASA launched the Kepler telescope in 2009 to survey a sampling of nearby stars in an attempt to learn if planets like Earth were common in the galaxy.

“This is great progress in finding a planet like Earth that is similar in size and temperature around a sun-like star,” said Kepler scientist Jeff Coughlin, with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

With the discovery of Kepler-452b, the telescope has found 1,030 confirmed planets and identified nearly 5,000 candidate planets. The list of potential planets includes 11 other near-Earth twins, seven of which circle sun-like stars.