New earth-like planet discovery


Kepler-186F and earth

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Planet like Earth found

Thursday 17 April 2014, 16:00 (Update: 17-04-14, 16:19)

Astronomers have found a planet which looks like Earth. Kepler-186F is rocky, only 10 percent larger than Earth and is the right distance from its star. Scientists call it a major discovery in the search for extraterrestrial life.

The planet was found in March 2009 with the space telescope Kepler. From minor fluctuations in the light of a star, scientists infer that there is a planet circling beyond the star, they write in the scientific journal Science. In this galaxy four other planets were discovered earlier this way.

Thanks to Kepler in this way a total of almost 2000 exoplanets have been discovered. That also included earth-like planets, but none of them looks so much like our earth as Kepler-186F.

Goldilocks zone

The distance of the planet from the star is just right to make liquid water possible. The planet is on the edge of the so-called Goldilocks zone. Like in the fairy tale of the three bears, it is not so hot there that water evaporates and not so cold that it freezes.

Whether anything actually lives on the planet, astronomers cannot say. The star around which the planet orbits may be a spoilsport.

For Kepler-186F orbits around a different kind of star than our sun, being a red dwarf. Such a star is smaller than our sun, but also more active. This might expose the planet to too much radiation to make life possible.

More time

The chances of life are improved on the other hand by dwarf stars living longer than their larger counterparts. This would give more time to develop life. Also maybe on the planet there is an atmosphere filtering the radiation.

The planet is 500 light years away from our solar system in the constellation Cygnus. It turns around its star once every 130 days.

Most Earth-like planet yet discovered: here.

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