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A new planet has been discovered, roughly the size Earth. No big deal right? Guess again.

The ongoing search for potential life in outer space has taken a surprisingly positive turn of events, as NASA recently announced a new discovery.

The exoplanet spotted has been named Kepler-186f,  after the telescope that spotted it, NASA’s Kepler telescope.

Kepler-186f is approximately 500 light years from Earth, in a constellation called Cygnus.  It orbits within what is called a “habitable zone.” This means that it is neither too close nor too far from it’s source of light, possibly allowing water. This news is monumental of course, because water is one of the most important components to survival.

In other words, this new planet could contain life.

Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California explains that the planet is “the right size and the right distance to have properties that are similar to our home planet…We can now say that other potentially habitable worlds, similar in size to Earth, can exist. It’s no longer in the realm of science fiction.”

This discovery has given hope to the idea of extraterrestrial life, opening up a new world that scientists used to only dream of.

Kepler has five other planets that orbit the same star it does, which is called M dwarf. M dwarf is a star about half the size of our Sun.The mass and composition Kepler are yet to be determined, but most scientists predict that given the location and circumstances it is possible to be rocky and have mixed terrain, like our own planet.

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Image via nasa.gov

Kepler-186 orbits its star M dwarf once every 130-days, receiving only about one-third of the energy from its star that Earth gets from the sun. This represents it’s location is closer to the outer edge of the habitable zone.

Research on this new planet is unfinished and there is much more to learn, so it is unknown if this planet does or even can contain life. Just because it is inside a habitable zone does not necessarily mean it is able to host living things.

On the surface of Kepler-186f, the brightness of its star at high noon is only as bright as our sun appears to us about an hour before sunset. This makes the planet darker in comparison to Earth, but still light enough to wonder…

Either way, whether it has life or not, this is big news for the future. In 2017, NASA prepares to launch a new device that will allow us a deeper understanding of Kepler called a ‘Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite’.

Until then, keep yourself updated by checking NASA’s page dedicated to the mission, http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/main/index.html

 

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