“Earth 2.0” found according to BBC News, and NASA News 23 July 2015. Scientists working on data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope claim to have found a planet very similar to Earth. NASA scientist John Grunsfeld called it “Earth 2.0” and described it as the “closest so far” to Earth. Its official name is Kepler-452b, and it belongs to a star in the constellation Cygnus.
The Kepler telescope observes stars and records any changes in their light. Small decreases in light could be caused by orbiting planets moving across the star. From this data the scientists calculate possible size, orbital period and distance of any possible planet from its star. Kepler 452b is estimated to be 60 percent larger in diameter than Earth, has an orbital period of 385 days, and is 5 percent farther from its parent star than earth. This puts it in the “habitable zone” for planets, i.e. the zone where it could have liquid water.
The host star of the planet is believed to be similar to our Sun, and NASA scientists estimate it to be “6 billion years old, or 1.5 billion years older than our sun with the same temperature, and is 20 percent brighter and has a diameter 10 percent larger”.
The scientists are still unsure if the planet is rocky, like earth. Don Pollacco, from Warwick University, UK, explained to the BBC: “Kepler data allows you to estimate the relative size of a planet to its host star, so if you know the size of the host, hey presto, you know the size of the planet. However, to go further – i.e. is it rocky? – involves measuring the mass of the planets and this is much more difficult to do as the stars are too far away for these measurements (which are incredibly difficult) to make. So in reality they have no idea what this planet is made of: It could be rock but it could be a small gassy ball or something more exotic maybe”.
Jon Jenkins of NASA’s Ames Research Center commented: “We can think of Kepler-452b as an older, bigger cousin to Earth, providing an opportunity to understand and reflect upon Earth’s evolving environment”. He went on to say: “It’s awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth. That’s substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet”.
Editorial Comment: We had to match up the great pics in the newspapers and on TV with the statement from Warwick Universities Don Pollacco’s “in reality they have no idea what this planet is made of”. So note very well: no-one has actually seen this planet! The pictures in the numerous news reports are an artist’s creation. The only real data is a tiny decrease in the light coming from a star. The rest of the story is assumptions and calculations based on these assumptions.
The current obsession with finding extra-solar planets is fuelled by the belief that life on earth developed by chance random evolution, and therefore, given the same kind of planet, we will find life elsewhere in the universe, and prove evolution to be true.
However, even if there is a planet around star Kepler-452, and it has liquid water and the right amount of light and heat; that is not enough to produce life. Furthermore, the supposed 6 billion years will never increase the chances of life happening. Chemicals, energy and time cannot produce life. Life is made of chemicals, but it is the organisation of the chemicals, not just their substance that makes them into living cells, because living cells need genetic information. Matter and energy alone cannot produce this. Information can only come from a mind, and living cells are the product of the Creator, who first created the earth and then filled it with life. (Ref. astronomy, cosmology, chemical evolution)
For more on possible life on other planets see the question: Is there life in outer space? Would it matter theologically if they found some? Answer here.