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NASA Kepler Livestream: Possible 'Another Earth' Discovery To Be Announced At 5PM GMT

23/07/2015 12:35 BST | Updated 23/07/2015 18:59 BST

Check back here at 5PM GMT to listen in on NASA's Kepler audio press conference.

NASA could be on the verge of making one of the most significant announcements in inter-planetary exploration since the space race first begun.

In a brief statement about the announcement NASA claims that today it could unveil "something people have dreamed about for thousands of years."

Another Earth.

Long have humans dreamed about finding a planet just like ours - not least because of the implications it could have for alien life, but also in the deeper sense of making us feel less alone in the Universe.

By finding a planet just like ours, even if it's uninhabited, we know that Earth isn't just a one off.

NASA's chief expert Ellen Stofan on the subject has already made the bold claim that we'll discover alien life in just 20-30 years.

A panel of four experts, including a researcher from the SETI Institute and a professor of astrophysics from Cambridge University will take questions from the audience as well as social media via the hashtag #askNASA.

eight new planets

Artist's impression of an Earth-like planet orbiting a star near the end of its life surrounded by a shell of expanding gas

Since Kepler was launched in 2009, the Earth-hunting telescope has been spectacularly earning its money discovering 4,661 candidate planets and 1,028 planets.

Despite suffering a potentially catastrophic breakdown in 2013, NASA has been able to extend Kepler's lifespan well beyond its 2012 mission end, discovering hundreds of new planets.

Kepler's primary mission is to discover new planets, by detecting light the team are able to analyse the bodies that are orbiting stars and in turn determine whether their distance and composition.

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The end result? To find another planet like ours. To do this the team are looking for specific planets that fall within what's known as the 'Goldilocks Zone'.

To be in the habitable zone, also known as the "Goldilocks zone", a planet must be not too hot or too cold and receive roughly as much sunlight as Earth. Too much heat from its star, and any water would boil away as steam. Too little, and the water would freeze solid.

Despite suffering from setbacks, NASA's team unveiled in January 2015 that they had found eight new Earth-like planets.

kepler hall of fame

Illustrations of the newfound exoplanets pictured next to Earth. Click on the image to enlarge

The two most Earth-like planets, known as Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b, both orbit red dwarf stars that are smaller and cooler than the Sun. With a diameter just 12% bigger than Earth, Kepler-438b has a 70% chance of being rocky, the scientists have calculated. Kepler-442b is about one-third larger than Earth, and the likelihood of it being rocky is around 60%.

So would be ever be able to visit these planets? At present, sadly not. While advances in new propulsion techniques have ranged from long-term travel to Mars, to the genuine claim that someone had invented a 'Warp Drive', the fact remains that space travel is still our biggest hurdle to overcome.