Astronomers found Earth's 'older, bigger cousin.' And it's incredible.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ... wait, no.

Today, in our galaxy, NASA announced something big.

Astronomers from the Kepler spacecraft mission — a team devoted to spotting other worlds floating around out there in the abyss — announced the discovery of another planet.


That news (while admittedly pretty cool) isn't too groundbreaking on its own. After all, there are lots of other planets out there. But the characteristics of this particular new planet are what really has people talking.

The spacecraft identified Kepler-452b — a planet strikingly similar to Earth in many, many ways.

So similar, in fact, it's the most Earth-like planet we've ever discovered. In other words — from what NASA knows of Kepler-452b now — it could have the potential to host life.

Check out this artist's concept of what Kepler-452b might look like! Pretty Earth-ish, I'd say. Photo courtesy of NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle.

Kepler-452b is in its star's habitable zone, which means liquid water could exist there.

Earth is unique in that it's not too hot or cold for liquid water to exist. This is largely due to our placement within our solar system — we're not too far away or too close to the sun.

We're in our solar system's "Goldilocks zone," if you will.

Kepler-452b is incredibly similar to Earth in this regard. Kepler-452b revolves around its star every 385 days, as opposed to Earth's 365.

Speaking of Kepler-452b's host star ... it's the same type as our sun. That's important.

Stars are just like people — they come in all shapes and sizes (and temperatures). Those factors greatly affect the planets that revolve around them.

While Kepler has discovered other planets similar to Earth in some respects, this is the first time scientists have spotted one that's in the habitable zone of a G star, like our sun.

Image by NASA.

Kepler-452b and Earth are about the same size, too. And our "older, bigger cousin" might have volcanoes!

Kepler-452b's radius is just about 1.5 times that of Earth's. NASA believes there's a good chance Kepler-452b is also a rocky planet (as opposed to a big ball of gas), like Earth. If it is, Kepler-452b likely has volcanic activity.

Not too different, huh? Just so we're clear, though — Earth and Kepler-452b aren't actually this close. Kepler-452b is about 1,400 light years away from us.

Right now, though, we have more questions than answers when it comes to Kepler-452b.

There's still a lot to learn about our new (relatively close) neighbor.

When reached for comment, NASA's Michele Johnson told Upworthy that NASA still isn't sure if Kepler-452b has an atmosphere. We may only figure that out when we have more technologically advanced space telescopes, according to John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator.

But let's not let Kepler-452b hog the spotlight! It's just one of a dozen other potential Earth-like planets Kepler announced in its latest update.

While Kepler-452b is the only "Earth 2.0"-type planet NASA confirmed on July 23, 2015, the group recently discovered a dozen other possible Earth-like planets.

GIF via "Community."

So for anyone hoping we stumble upon another Earth out there, there's still plenty to look forward to.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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Two weeks ago, we watched a pro-Trump mob storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the results of a U.S. election and keep Donald Trump in power. And among those insurrectionists were well-known adherents of QAnon, nearly every image of the crowd shows people wearing Q gear or carrying Q flags, and some of the more frightening elements we saw tie directly into QAnon beliefs.

Since hints of it first started showing up in social media comments several years ago, I've been intrigued—and endlessly frustrated—by the phenomenon of QAnon. At first, it was just a few fringey whacko conspiracy theorists I could easily roll my eyes at and ignore, but as I started seeing elements of it show up more and more frequently from more and more people, alarm bells started ringing.

Holy crap, there are a lot of people who actually believe this stuff.

Eventually, it got personal. A QAnon adherent on Twitter kept commenting on my tweets, pushing bizarro Q ideas on many of my posts. The account didn't use a real name, but the profile was classic QAnon, complete with the #WWG1WGA. ("Where we go one, we go all"—a QAnon rallying cry.) I thought it might be a bot, so I blocked them. Later, I discovered that it was actually one of my own extended family members.

Holy crap, I actually know people who actually believe this stuff.

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Having lived in small towns and large cities in the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, and Midwest, and after spending a year traveling around the U.S. with my family, I've seen first-hand that Americans have much more in common than not. I've also gotten to experience some of the cultural differences, subtle and not-so-subtle, real and not-so-real, that exist in various parts of the country.

Some of those differences are being discussed in a viral thread on Twitter. Self-described "West coaster" Jordan Green kicked it off with an observation about East coasters being kind and West coasters being nice, which then prompted people to share their own social experiences in various regions around the country.

Green wrote:

"When I describe East Coast vs West Coast culture to my friends I often say 'The East Coast is kind but not nice, the West Coast is nice but not kind,' and East Coasters immediately get it. West Coasters get mad.

Niceness is saying 'I'm so sorry you're cold,' while kindness may be 'Ugh, you've said that five times, here's a sweater!' Kindness is addressing the need, regardless of tone.

I'm a West Coaster through and through—born and raised in San Francisco, moved to Portland for college, and now live in Seattle. We're nice, but we're not kind. We'll listen to your rant politely, smile, and then never speak to you again. We hit mute in real life. ALOT.

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