A breakthrough in extraterrestrial life is upon us - astronomers found an Earth-sized planet orbiting a star in the "habitable zone" - which has scientists and astronomers excited. It was named Kepler-186f.
It was found with NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, in a range of distance from the star it orbits, that would allow liquid water.
The "habitable zone" is known as an area a specific distance from a star where water could pool on its surface. Even though other planets have previously been found in the habitable zone, they were all at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth and understanding their makeup is challenging. Kepler-186f is more reminiscent of Earth.
— The SETI Institute (@SETIInstitute) April 18, 2014
Kepler-186f is 490 light-years away, but in the search for worlds similar to ours, nothing has come closer.
"This is the first definitive Earth-sized planet found in the habitable zone around another star," said Elisa Quintana of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute at NASA. "Finding such planets is a primary goal of the Kepler space telescope."
"This discovery not only proves the existence of worlds that might be similar to our own but will undoubtedly shape future investigations of exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) that could have terrestrial surface environments," the institute said in an announcement Thursday.
This afternoon (April 17), NASA introduced the world to the most Earth-like planet ever discovered: Kepler-186f. pic.twitter.com/kWg15AYM4b
— Cosmos (@BestOfCosmos) April 18, 2014
Found! First Earth-Size Planet That Could Support Life http://t.co/wgCx9mov35
— LiveScience (@LiveScience) April 18, 2014
Once the planet was spotted, SETI immediately began searching for emissions or other indications that could mean the presence of ETs. So far, nothing has been found.
Kepler-186f is estimated to be 10% larger than Earth, and its distance from its star is extremely promising. It gives scientists hope that this discovery might sustain life as we know it.
From nearly 1,800 "confirmed exoplanets" found, only about 20 orbit their host starts within zones that are not too hot or not too cold. These "zones" are an area that surface water would not freeze or boil, such as Earth. In 2011, NASA announced that Kepler discovered five other planets approximately the size of Earth and in the habitable zone.
But the "previously discovered worlds are larger than Earth, and consequently their true nature -- rocky or gaseous -- is unknown," the SETI Institute said in a written announcement on Thursday. "On the basis of the observed dimming of starlight from Kepler-186, the authors estimate that this newly discovered planet is roughly the same size as the Earth."
Somewhere out there, the creatures of Kepler-186f are resenting us for naming their planet after a human.
— Fake Science (@FakeScience) April 18, 2014
It would be thrilling to have actual evidence that there is other life in the universe.
Image via YouTube