Astronomers found Earth's 'older, bigger cousin.' And it's incredible.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ... wait, no.

Today, in our galaxy, NASA announced something big.

Astronomers from the Kepler spacecraft mission — a team devoted to spotting other worlds floating around out there in the abyss — announced the discovery of another planet.


That news (while admittedly pretty cool) isn't too groundbreaking on its own. After all, there are lots of other planets out there. But the characteristics of this particular new planet are what really has people talking.

The spacecraft identified Kepler-452b — a planet strikingly similar to Earth in many, many ways.

So similar, in fact, it's the most Earth-like planet we've ever discovered. In other words — from what NASA knows of Kepler-452b now — it could have the potential to host life.

Check out this artist's concept of what Kepler-452b might look like! Pretty Earth-ish, I'd say. Photo courtesy of NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle.

Kepler-452b is in its star's habitable zone, which means liquid water could exist there.

Earth is unique in that it's not too hot or cold for liquid water to exist. This is largely due to our placement within our solar system — we're not too far away or too close to the sun.

We're in our solar system's "Goldilocks zone," if you will.

Kepler-452b is incredibly similar to Earth in this regard. Kepler-452b revolves around its star every 385 days, as opposed to Earth's 365.

Speaking of Kepler-452b's host star ... it's the same type as our sun. That's important.

Stars are just like people — they come in all shapes and sizes (and temperatures). Those factors greatly affect the planets that revolve around them.

While Kepler has discovered other planets similar to Earth in some respects, this is the first time scientists have spotted one that's in the habitable zone of a G star, like our sun.

Image by NASA.

Kepler-452b and Earth are about the same size, too. And our "older, bigger cousin" might have volcanoes!

Kepler-452b's radius is just about 1.5 times that of Earth's. NASA believes there's a good chance Kepler-452b is also a rocky planet (as opposed to a big ball of gas), like Earth. If it is, Kepler-452b likely has volcanic activity.

Not too different, huh? Just so we're clear, though — Earth and Kepler-452b aren't actually this close. Kepler-452b is about 1,400 light years away from us.

Right now, though, we have more questions than answers when it comes to Kepler-452b.

There's still a lot to learn about our new (relatively close) neighbor.

When reached for comment, NASA's Michele Johnson told Welcometoterranova that NASA still isn't sure if Kepler-452b has an atmosphere. We may only figure that out when we have more technologically advanced space telescopes, according to John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator.

But let's not let Kepler-452b hog the spotlight! It's just one of a dozen other potential Earth-like planets Kepler announced in its latest update.

While Kepler-452b is the only "Earth 2.0"-type planet NASA confirmed on July 23, 2015, the group recently discovered a dozen other possible Earth-like planets.

GIF via "Community."

So for anyone hoping we stumble upon another Earth out there, there's still plenty to look forward to.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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