The world: How NASA’s Kepler telescope discovered a habitable alien world

This close, NASA’s Kepler telescope photographed the planet, which has been named Kepler-452b and was discovered five years ago using the space agency’s Kepler mission. It orbits a star nearly the same size as our Sun, and reveals it is tidally locked, meaning the same side of the planet always faces its star. That lets it store the heat from its day side, allowing it to maintain a day length of around 1.4 Earth days. It’s unusual enough to have been named in honour of the scientist who discovered it – William B Parker.

KPC3, as the planet is called, is likely a rocky world, but it also has an atmosphere. The planet should have a minimum temperature of around 620F (200C), and the water there is probably less than a foot deep. While Kepler-452b is like the planet in the famous 2004 Beagle 2 probe, which crashed during its voyage round Mars, it is twice the mass of our own Earth.

But be sure not to approach it too closely. As your eye passes into the width of the planet, gravity is about 10 times greater than on Earth. Those who venture too close would face a steep plummet downwards. Orchids growing through a sheet of glass certainly don’t look good here.

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