NASA scientists have found another Earth-like planet and this one seems to be the most habitable. Maybe.
NASA astronomers found Kepler-186f which seems to be an Earth-like planet in the Kepler-186 star system. It’s about 500 light-years from Earth and is in the constellation Cygnus. Kepler-186f is roughly the same size as Earth and orbits a star at a location that makes habitation highly possible. When a planet is in a habitable zone, it is at a distance where liquid water can pool on the surface. Kepler-186f gets about a third of the energy that Earth gets from the sun, making the newly discovered planet just barely habitable.
The star Kepler-186f orbits is about half of the mass of our sun. It’s a red dwarf (also known as an M dwarf). Kepler-186f shares a solar system with four other planets. However, those planets are way too hot for life to exist.
While scientists have found other possible Earth-like planets, these planets aren’t the same size as Earth and are typically made up of more gas.
Kepler-186f orbits its star every 130 days and gets as much sun at noon as Earth does before sunset. However, scientists think that Kepler-186f may be colder than Earth. Scientists also believe that Kepler-186f is made up of rock but have yet to figure out the planet’s mass and composition.
Paul Hertz, NASA’s Astrophysics Division director, stated, “The discovery of Kepler-186f is a significant step toward finding worlds like our planet Earth. Future NASA missions, like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the James Webb Space Telescope, will discover the nearest rocky exoplanets and determine their composition and atmospheric conditions, continuing humankind’s quest to find truly Earth-like worlds.”
However, writer John Goss of ‘The Roanoke Times’ thinks we shouldn’t get excited just yet. There is still so much we don’t know about Kepler-186f such as its surface, atmospheric pressure, temperature, the axial tilt and the length of its day. Goss believes that we as a society shouldn’t go jumping to conclusions.
“As a society, we really want to believe the existence of life on other worlds. So much so that when reports are released describing anything remotely related to the subject, we try to extract every nuance that confirms that possibility. We tend to ignore information that doesn’t support the likelihood of life,” Goss writes.
So what information have we been ignoring? As mentioned earlier, Kepler-186f orbits a Red Dwarf star. Red Dwarfs are known for giving off massive solar flares which could affect the planet’s temperature and radiation levels. Without the right temperature and high radiation levels, Earth-like life wouldn’t be able to exist.
Why do you think this information was omitted from reports and articles when the planet was discovered? Are we as a society ignoring the scientific facts because we so desperately want there to be life on other planets? Why do you think we as a society crave the idea of life on other planets?