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Most people have always had the suspicion that, somewhere out there in the giant black vacuum that is the universe, there’s a planet just like our own. Only now, NASA scientists can actually tell you where it is. (Incidentally, NASA’s been having a killer couple of weeks!)

Working off four years’ worth of data received from the Kepler space telescope, NASA researchers announced they had discovered Earth’s “bigger, older cousin.”

Kepler-452b, as the exoplanet is being called, was found about 1,400 light years away from Earth orbiting a sun-like star of its own. What makes this place special (besides having its own sun) is that it’s located in the star’s “habitable zone,” meaning the planet is warm enough to render water to a liquid state, and a place where life as we know it could thrive.

“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,” associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfeld said. “This exciting result brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0.”

There are some small differences between Kepler-452b and Earth, however. Our twin is 60 per cent larger in diameter and ol’ Kep takes a little longer to orbit its star (a year would last 385 days there). It’s also more rocky there than on Earth.

“It’s awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth,” Kepler data analysis lead Jon Jenkins said in a statement. “That’s substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet.”

Eleven other “habitable” exoplanets were discovered as well, which should also bode well for any alien enthusiasts.

The Kepler space telescope, by the way, is designed to survey the Milky Way galaxy while attempting to discover Earth-sized and small planets in or near the habitable zone.

Needless to say, job well done, NASA!

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