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Kepler telescope identifies new ‘habitable zone’ planet

Orb slightly larger than Earth orbits sunlike star

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4:25pm, July 23, 2015
Kepler 452b

NEW WORLD  The newly identified exoplanet Kepler 452b orbits a sunlike star 1,400 light-years away from Earth. 

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered a “cousin” of Earth 1,400 light-years away.

The exoplanet Kepler 452b orbits a sunlike star at about the same distance as Earth orbits the sun, scientists reported at a news conference July 23. The discovery is the first confirmed planet among 500 candidates newly identified by the Kepler mission.

But even though the new planet bears many similarities to Earth, experts say much about it remains a mystery.

Kepler 452b is about 60 percent larger than Earth, and about 5 percent farther from its sun. The planet’s size and distance place it in a zone that scientists say could support an atmosphere and liquid water, conditions needed for life as we know it. Unlike earlier planets found in this “habitable zone,” the new planet orbits a star that is close to the same size and brightness as our sun.

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