NASA announced the discovery of Kepler-22b, the first planet the Kepler spacecraft has discovered in the habitable zone. The discovery of Kepler-22b, which is 600 light-years away from Earth, brings scientists one step closer to finding a planet that could possibly harbor life.
“This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin,” Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist said in a statement. “Kepler’s results continue to demonstrate the importance of NASA’s science missions, which aim to answer some of the biggest questions about our place in the universe.”
Kepler-22b has several Earth-like characteristics: The new planet’s temperature is around 72 degrees Fahrenheit and its radius is 2.4 times Earth’s. The planet completely orbits its star, which is similar to our sun, every 290 days, just 75 days shy of an Earth year.
But how close is the new Earth really?
Since one light year is the equivalent nearly six trillion miles, it would take 22 million years to travel 600 light years on a space shuttle and visit Kepler 22-b with our current technology.
But while we won’t be able to visit this Kepler-22b, scientists say another planet like it and closer to it could be discovered in this lifetime. The Kepler telescope has already detected hundreds of new planets.