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Kepler Telescope Discovers Most Earth-like Planet Yet

by Brandon Russell | April 17, 2014April 17, 2014 8:00 pm PDT

Kepler 186f

Scientists say they’ve discovered the most Earth-like planet to date; the rocky planet, Kepler 186f, is considered so Earth-like that it has serious potential to hold water, which could indicate an alien world filled with life. The planet is part of a five-planet system in the Milky Way, and is so far the smallest planet researchers have spotted in the habitable zone. Scientists say Kepler 186f is roughly 500 light-years away from Earth, so the prospect of colonization isn’t exactly in the cards.

Data suggests the planet is similar in size to Earth—about 10-percent larger—giving scientists confidence Kepler 186f is a rocky planet, like ours. Planets similar in size to Earth are typically rocky; anything substantially larger usually contains an atmosphere similar to gas giants in Earth’s solar system. But the similarities to Earth seem to end there.

Kepler 186f is actually the furthest planet of the five from its host star, with an orbit that lasts about 130 days. But scientists believe it lies in that perfect Goldilocks zone, giving them hope it contains liquid water—an essential ingredient for life. However, researchers caution that smaller host stars like the one orbited by Kepler 186f tend to be more active, which means there’s potential for any organisms to be bombarded with huge amounts of radiation.

So while this is as close to Earth-like as researchers have found so far, it isn’t quite the alternate universe people were hoping. There’s not another you looking up at the sky, doing the same things you do day after day. We have seen possible Earth-like planets before, and the Kepler telescope, which launched in 2009, has been on a tear discovering more than 1,000 new worlds. So there’s still hope we’ll one day find Earth #2. Hopefully something a littler closer than 500 light-years away.

BBC

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Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...


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