NASA one step closer to finding "habitable" planet
POSTED: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 3:42pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 3:44pm
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — Happy Earth Day everyone!
It's been a rough 4.54 billion years, but we've made it this far!
Speaking of which, what better way to commemorate Earth Day, than by mentioning other planets that could hold life?
As a matter in fact, just last week, NASA announced the discovery of a faraway planet that’s similar in size to our globe and has the right temperature to potentially support liquid water, and possibly life!
I have to admit I love watching Ancient Aliens, and the fact that this type of stuff is a possibility gives me goose bumps! (of the good kind of course)
The planet, called Kepler-186f, is the first Earth-size sphere outside our solar system with an orbit around its star that is in the “Goldilocks zone,” appropriately named this way because it's in the habitable range that is neither too hot nor too cold. This is according to the Washington Post.
Using data gathered by NASA’s Kepler space-based telescope, the team of astronomers discovered a group of five planets orbiting a star about 500 light-years from Earth.
By the way, 1 light year = 9.4605284 × 1015 meters.
The star, called Kepler-186, is a relatively cool red dwarf about half the size of our sun.
Four of the planets venture extremely close to the star, making them too hot for liquid water — and therefore, life as we know it.
But the outermost planet soaks in just enough energy for surface water to stay liquid!
So the question that many of us are wondering, is this exoplanet truly Earth’s twin?
Unfortunately, the answer is most likely, no.
According to some astronomers, the amount of stellar energy the planet receives is only a third of the energy that the Earth gets from the Sun, making it much colder than Earth.
By definition, to be Earth-like, a planet must be both Earth-size (less than 1.25 times Earth’s girth and less than twice Earth’s mass) and must circle its host star within the habitable zone, which means the band around a star where water could potentially exist in its liquid state, an essential component for life. This is according to skyandtelescope.com
It's one of those things where, astronomers and reporters want to the first to discover and report on a planet that has life. So it's been a race to try and find one suitable for extraterrestrial life for years now.
Can you believe that of the nearly 1,800 confirmed exoplanets found in the past two decades, approximately 10 orbit their host star in the habitable zone.
Before today, the smallest exoplanet on this list was Kepler-62f. But at 1.4 times the size of Earth, this exoplanet isn’t Earth-like at all. It’s a super-Earth, which could mean it’s a rocky planet with oceans and an atmosphere, or it could be completely gaseous.
According to the NASA team who found this planet, they say Kepler-186f’s orbit takes it along the outer edge of the star’s habitable zone so any liquid water on the surface would still be in danger of freezing.
But the team hopes that if the exoplanet is a little more massive than the Earth, this extra mass would result in a thicker atmosphere and therefore better insulation.
Either way, it still looks like a long shot before we can discover a planet that can hold life or even, earth's twin.
I guess it's safe to say that today is a good day to be thankful for planet earth and through the good and the bad, it has kept us going for this long.