18 April 2014

NASA Discovers Closest Earth-like Planet: Kepler-186f

Since its first launched in 2009, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has been searching exoplanets. On Thursdays, Kepler's Astronomers have confirmed the discovery of yet the most Earth-liked planet and one of the closest in sizes to Earth in its Star's HABITABLE zone (a distance zone that makes it possible for liquid water on the surface of the planet).

The announcement was first made at Press Conference published in Science and posted in NASA.

Astronomers at NASA's Kepler have discovered the first Earth-size planet that orbits in the "habitable zone." I just hope China will not own it. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets with the size similar to Earth exist in the Habitable zone.

Kepler-186f is about 10% bigger than Earth. Its 130-day orbit around a complete revolution in its "M Drawf Sun" suggested being in the right range to have potential support of liquid water. Also, it is residing in the Kepler-186 system, about around 500 light-years(sadly, it's a great journey...yeah don't expect for a quick ride) away in the constellation Cygnus from Earth which orbit a star half the size and mass of our SUN. This Star is classified as M Dwarf or Red Dwarf which makes it up to 70% of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
"The discovery of Kepler-186f is a significant step toward finding worlds like our planet Earth," said Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division director at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Future NASA missions, like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the James Webb Space Telescope, will discover the nearest rocky exoplanets and determine their composition and atmospheric conditions, continuing humankind's quest to find truly Earth-like worlds." ~ NASA
According to NASA, the planet only receives one-third of the radiation energy from its star.
The artist's concept depicts Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone.
Image Credit: 
NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech
Further, NASA suggests that this planet Kepler-1876-f (Unknown mass and composition) is more likely to be rocky.

Elisa Quintana, research scientist at the SETI Institute at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and lead author of the paper published today in the journal Science
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. Finding a habitable zone planet comparable to Earth in size is a major step forward.
With the discovery of Kepler-186f, the next steps NASA is with the search of distant life looking for Earth-cousins.

Kepler Space Telescope is the NASA's first mission to detect Earth-size planets around the SUN.



References:
TheVerge / NASA / IFL / Science / NYTIMES

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