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WE'VE FOUND EARTH'S TWIN... Experts discover 60% bigger version with a 385-day orbit.

Byline: CHRISTOPHER BUCKTIN US Editor in Washington

NASA has claimed it has discovered the closest twin to Earth so far observed in the Milky Way.

The space agency's Kepler Mission scientists say they have found a planet in similar size to ours that they described as a "habitable zone" around a sun-like star.

Called the Kepler-452b, it is the smallest d planet to date discovered orbiting in the "zone" - the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a planet orbiting what is called G2-type star, like our sun.

Speaking at Nasa headquarter's in Washington, John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the agency's Science Mission Directorate, said: "This star like exciting result brings us one step closer to finding an Earth JOHN Washington 2.0. On the 20th anniversary year of the discovery that proved other suns host planets, the Kepler exoplanet explorer has discovered a planet and star which most closely resemble the Earth and our Sun."

The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030. It is 60% larger in diameter than our own planet and is considered super-Earth-sized.

While its mass and composition are not yet determined, previous research suggests the planet has a good chance yrp Kepler of being rocky in terrain. Kepler-452b's 385-day orbit is only 5% longer than the time our planet takes to travel round the sun.

Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at Nasa's Ames Research Centre in California, added: "We can think of Kepler-452b as an older, bigger cousin to Earth, providing an opportunity to understand and reflect upon Earth's evolving environment.

"It's awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent six billion years in the habitable zone of its star, longer than Earth. That's substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet."

Kepler-452b is also 5% farther from its parent star Kepler-452 than Earth is from our sun, which is 1.5 billion years younger. In addition to confirming Kepler-452b, the Nasa team has increased the number of new exoplanet candidates by 521 from their analysis of observations conducted from May 2009 to May 2013, raising the number of possible planets detected by the mission to 4,696.

The Kepler Space telescope, named after the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, was launched on March 7, 2009.

Designed to survey a portion of the Milky Way to discover extrasolar planets in or near the habitable zone, Kepler's sole instrument is a photometer.

It continually monitors the brightness of more than 145,000 main sequence stars in a fixed field of view before transmitting its data to Earth. There scientists analyse the information in the hope of detecting another habitable Earth.

The telescope has confirmed more than 1,000 planets and more than 3,000 planet candidates spanning a wide range of sizes and orbital distances.

The Kepler explorer has found a planet and star most like our own JOHN GRUNSFELD washington yesterday


COMPARE Earth, left, and artists's Kepler-452b

STAR GAZING Kepler-452b resembles a bigger Earth

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 24, 2015
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