The Internet is abuzz with an exciting new discovery: the first Earth-sized planet was found within livable distance from a star. Called Kepler-186f, this planet is the closest match to the conditions on Earth found so far, and thus, probably the best chance of life elsewhere in space.
We first heard about this find about a month ago, but now NASA is releasing new information about the planet that is 500 light-years away.
While we still don’t know about the surface, composition, or mass (which affects things like gravity and livability) of the planet, we do know a few things:
- It is about 1.1 times the size of Earth.
- The planet rotates around a star that is about half the size and mass of our sun (which is also a star).
- There are four other companion planets in this planet’s system.
- The planet orbits around its star every 130 days (in Earth terms that would mean its year is 130 days long).
- It receives one-third the energy from its star that Earth gets from the sun, probably making the temperature mild.
- And the brightness of its star at noon is only as bright as our sun about an hour before sunset.
But scientists say not to get too excited yet. Just because it resembles Earth doesn’t mean Kepler-186f is in fact livable.
“Being in the habitable zone does not mean we know this planet is habitable. The temperature on the planet is strongly dependent on what kind of atmosphere the planet has,” said Thomas Barclay, co-author of the paper about the planet that was published in the journal Science. “Kepler-186f can be thought of as an Earth-cousin rather than an Earth-twin. It has many properties that resemble Earth.”
Still the first Earth-like planet that could be inhabitable! That’s pretty exciting stuff.