NASA recently reported the discovery of a planet which is remarkably similarly to Earth, raising hopes that we could soon discover alien life.
Exoplanet Kepler-452b is so reminiscent of our home planet that it has been nicknamed “Earth 2.0.” News of its discovery swept the media and led to speculation that alien life or substances such as water may be found, according to AFP.
Experts weigh in on chances of finding alien life
A number of scientists were asked to comment on the rumors. Astronomer Tom Kerss at the Royal Observatory Greenwich points out that little is actually known about Kepler-452b at this point. “Currently we don’t know if this planet is terrestrial, rocky, or a small gas planet,” he said.
However it could turn out to be the planet most similar to Earth that we have discovered. “If Kepler-452b turns out to be a terrestrial world, it will be the most Earth-like known which also orbits a G-class star like the Sun. There’s a real chance we’re talking about a terrestrial, potentially habitable exoplanet, with more similarities to our home world than any other place in our Solar System,” Kerss continued.
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All the same, we will not be able to visit Kepler-452b any time soon with current technology. Kerss says that it would take “almost 11 million years to reach Kepler-452b,” so don’t hold your breath.
Technological advances needed to explore space further
John Grunsfield, associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate, claims that further alien discoveries hinge on the capabilities of telescopes. “If we had a sufficiently large telescope… we could actually make the first primitive maps of an Earth-like planet around a nearby star that would provide us details about the atmospheric composition, the surface composition, whether they have oceans, clouds, perhaps even seasons, and start characterizing what those planets are like.”
This research is a preliminary stage in the search for alien life, which Grunsfield calls a “very tricky question and a very hot topic.” Until new technology allows us to undertake hugely long journeys through space, Kerss says “astronomers will continue to study exoplanets to learn more about the history of our own Solar System, and the nature of the Galaxy in general.”
Astronomer Emeline Bolmont believes “we will find a habitable planet yet.” The University of Bordeaux scientist alludes to the fast pace of research, claiming that “throughout my childhood, astronomers guessed that there might be a few hundred hospitable worlds in the Galaxy… the true figure is closer to tens of billions!”