Scientists made a first-of-its-kind discovery when they confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet. Never before has a planet with Earth-like amounts of heat, water and atmosphere been found, despite decades of search.
NBC reports that the NASA Kepler space telescope found the planet, which has been dubbed Kepler 22-b.
“The potentially habitable alien world, a first for Kepler, orbits a star very much like our own sun. The discovery brings scientists one step closer to finding a planet like our own—one that could conceivably harbor life,” scientists told NBC.
Per NBC, the $600 million Kepler observatory launched in March 2009 to hunt for Earth-size alien planets in the habitable zone of their parent stars, where liquid water, and perhaps even life, might be able to exist. Kepler detects alien planets using what's called the "transit method." It searches for tiny, telltale dips in a star's brightness caused when a planet transits—or crosses in front of—the star from Earth's perspective, blocking a fraction of the star's light.
The discovery is just the latest in a run of scientific gains. Classrooms scrambled to alter their solar system models when Pluto was demoted from the status of planet. Once again, textbooks will require amending to include this most recent discovery.