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NASA Has Found Earth's "Bigger, Older Cousin"

Scientists say the discovery "brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0."

Posted on July 23, 2015, at 12:48 p.m. ET

NASA announced Thursday it has discovered a planet that is a "bigger, older cousin" to our planet, which they called a big step toward finding "Earth 2.0"

NASA

The planet, called "Kepler-452b," was found during NASA's Kepler mission.

Scientists say the planet is unique because it is the smallest planet found so far that is both in the so-called habitable zone and orbits around a sun that is similar to our own.

In simpler terms, Kepler-452b and its sun more closely resemble our planet and sun than any other planet NASA has found.

"This exciting result brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0," NASA's John Grunsfeld said in a press release.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

This artist's concept compares Earth (left) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b.

Kepler-452b is 60% bigger than our planet, and has a slightly longer, 385-day orbit around its sun.

It is also older than Earth by about 1.5 billion years. Scientists say they consider the planet to be Earth's "older, bigger cousin."

"It's awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth," NASA's Jon Jenkins said. "That's substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet."

But if there is another species living on the planet, it will take us a while to reach them. Kepler-452b is 1,400 light-years away from Earth.

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