(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE SUN’ NEWS)
A “SUPER-EARTH” planet that’s one-and-half-times the size of our own has emerged as the most likely candidate to support alien life.
There’s just one problem: Kepler 452b, as it’s known, lies beyond the confines of our solar system – a whopping 1,400 light years away from us.
Discovered in 2015, the planet is located slap bang in the middle of a newly spotted “abiogenesis zone” that holds the right conditions for life to be created, according to researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology.
This region of the solar system contains the ideal mix of ultraviolet light and chemical reactions to usher in early life.
It’s also in a habitable ring of space dubbed the “Goldilocks zone” due to its distance from its host star so that it’s neither too hot nor too cold.
All this astro-magic combined equals temperatures that are just right to permit liquid surface water.
In fact, the Kepler 452b’s positions within the zones are so similar to our own planet’s that it’s earned the title of “Earth’s cousin”.
It’s also been described as a “super-Earth” because its mass is 1.5-times larger than Earth’s, but much less than the solar systems other titans, including Jupiter and Saturn, known as gas giants.
The planet was spotted by the powerful telescope aboard Nasa‘s Kepler spacecraft, hence its name, which has pinpointed thousands of so-called exoplanets (planets beyond our solar systems that orbit around other stars) since its 2009 launch.
However, out of all these candidates only Kepler 452b sits in the sweet spot between its stars habitable zone and the abiogenisis zone.
The star which it orbits in the constellation of Cygnus is about 20 percent brighter than the sun and some two billion years older.
Lead scientist Dr Paul Rimmer, from Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory, said: “This work allows us to narrow down the best places to search for life.
“It brings us just a little bit closer to addressing the question of whether we are alone in the universe.”
Rimmer’s team say that though Kepler 452b is too far away to probe with current tech, the next-generation of telescopes (like Nasa’s Tess and the long-gestating James Webb Telescopes) should be able to identify more Earth-style planets within an abiogenesis zone.
But they add that if there is life on these exoplanets, it may look radically different to that on Earth.
The new study is published in the journal Science Advances.