Climate change in the galaxy
"If Kepler-452b is indeed a rocky planet, its location vis-a-vis its star could mean that it is just entering a runaway greenhouse phase of its climate history," said Doug Caldwell, a SETI Institute scientist working on the Kepler mission.
"The increasing energy from its aging sun might be heating the surface and evaporating any oceans. The water vapor would be lost from the planet forever."
"Kepler-452b could be experiencing now what the Earth will undergo more than a billion years from now, as the Sun ages and grows brighter."
But before you start calling NASA to volunteer for a visit, there is a distance problem. Kepler-452b is 1,400 light years away, so we'll need a new form of propulsion to reach it.
There might also be no point to such a trip, since we could find a better candidate closer to home. In 2017 NASA will launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which will look for planets around stars closer to Earth, and in the meantime NASA has improved its technique for spotting new planets by using smarter software.
Jeff Coughlin, Kepler research scientist at SETI Institute, said that engineers had trained software to check Kepler's images for the transit of planets across the face of other suns and the results had greatly increased the number of planet discoveries.
By applying the software to the last month's data from Kepler, the code has found more than 500 new planets, which have been confirmed by human checking. A dozen of these are planets in the Goldilocks Zone, although none are as close to Earth's orbit as Kepler-452b. ®
*It might be fitting to name Kepler-452b "Valeria", as its apparent two-gee surface gravitation is pretty close to that of E E "Doc" Smith's fictional human-colonised planet, home of the Galactic Patrol's elite hand-to-hand fighting men. We are told that Valeria's gravitation is "over two and one-half times Earth's". -Ed