This week, scientists from NASA’s Kepler planet-hunting program announced the discovery of a planet just 60 percent larger than Earth, moving in an orbit similar to our own, around a distant star similar to our sun. It’s unknown if the planet could support life, or even if it has a solid surface. But Jon Jenkins, lead data analyst for the Kepler mission, says that the planet Kepler-452b is the closest thing we’ve found so far to a planetary cousin of Earth.
Plus, as data and images from the recent flyby of the Pluto system trickle in from the outer solar system, planetary scientists continue to be amazed by what they’re seeing. They’ve found towering frozen mountains
and surprisingly crater-free plains, and have seen pictures of the moon Charon
that, in the words of New Horizons Deputy Project Scientist Cathy Olkin, “blew our socks off.” This week, mission scientists unveiled images of a second smaller mountain range near Pluto’s “heart,” also known as Tombaugh Regio.