NASA has discovered another ‘living’, Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star within the habitable zone using the Kepler Space Telescope. Labeled as Kepler-186f, it is about 500 light-years away from us in the Cygnus constellation.
Launched in 2009 with the goal of finding another Earth, the $600-million Kepler spacecraft has discovered more than 960 planets orbiting nearby stars. Half a dozen of those seem to be rocky, like Earth, and have orbits in the habitable zone around their star—but the newly discovered world, named Kepler-186f, is the closest in size to Earth. It orbits its star every 130 days.
But what does it mean? Do you think life exists else where in our universe?
Well, the “habitable zone” – which is known as the Goldilocks zone, is the region around a star where planetary-mass objects with sufficient atmospheric pressure can support the liquid form of water at their surfaces.
If this nearby star to Kepler is similar to our Sun, then the probability of life on this Earth-like planet rises significantly. One of five planets orbiting a red dwarf star (Kepler 186), Kepler-186f is 1.1 times wider than Earth. That means it’s almost certainly a rocky planet too. The researchers estimate its mass is 1.5 times that of Earth’s.
We know of just one planet where life exists – Earth. When we search for life outside our solar system we focus on finding planets with characteristics that mimic that of Earth,” SETI Institute at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field research scientist said.
This planet basks in an orange-red glow from that star, much as we enjoy at sunset. The temperature on the planet is likely cool, similar to dawn or dusk on a spring day,” says pioneering planet hunter Geoff Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley.
Kepler has half the mass and size as our own solar system’s Sun, and only receives one-third of the energy that we get from Sun. It orbits its star every 130 days.
There are still a lot more Kepler ‘habitable zone’ worlds out there to find. Almost certainly this is not the last one,” Kane says.
via NAT GEO