In an exciting turn of events, NASA is declaring that they have discovered another planet, which closely resembles Earth. The planet has been named Kepler-186f. This Earth sized planet is roughly 490 light years away from us. This discovery is interesting because it is the first planet found to have the most similarities to Earth—meaning, it could also hold signs of life.
Elisa Quintana, who works at NASA’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, regularly uses the Kepler space telescope to locate such planets. Quintana confirms that Kepler-186f is the first planet that is very similar to the size of Earth, but is also orbiting another star, which could make the surface habitable. The Institute explains that this discovery proves that there are other planets in the solar system like Earth, and they need to be investigated to find if they could, or already do, hold life.
This is not the first time NASA has declared that there is another planet similar to Earth. They have found 1,800 other exoplanets, or planets which orbit a star outside the solar system, but only 20 of these orbit their star in a habitable zone. Being within the habitable zone means that the planet says at a temperature where the surface water will not boil or freeze. NASA announced in 2011 that the Kepler telescope had observed five other planets that were close to Earth’s size, and were at a habitable temperature.
The star that Kepler-186f orbits around is a red dwarf star. This star is only about half the mass and size of our own sun. This M-dwarf star is much smaller than our sun, however, it is much more ruthless, unleashing intense amounts of radiation. The plant Kepler-186f orbits around this dwarf star once every 130 days. Because this star is smaller, life on Kepler-186f would be darker than life on Earth. Quintana says that if you were to live on Kepler-186f, and it had an atmosphere like Earth, the temperature would be very similar to San Francisco on a cold day.
This planet only gets about a third of the energy from its star than Earth gets from our sun. If the planet were any further away from its star, the water would freeze. If it were any closer, the water would boil. Researcher Thomas Barclay describes Kepler-186f as having many properties similar to Earth and says people should think of it as a cousin rather than a twin.
Now that NASA has declared there is another planet very similar to Earth, which could hold life, questions regarding if we are alone in the solar system are bound to surface. Jason Rowe, who also works NASA’s the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, says that this discovery indications that our solar system is very good at producing planets similar in size to Earth. Rowe goes to explain that this discovery makes him question if there is other life with us in the universe. Rowe is confident that NASA will be able to answer this question in the future, due to the discovery of the planet Kepler-186f.
Opinion By Sara Petersen