In a press conference, NASA announced updates from their Kepler probe program, in which three planets appear to be in the orbital “habitable zone” that could potentially support liquid water. The latest discovery of the Kepler 186f planet is one of the most promising yet.

 

 

The diagram compares the planets of our inner solar system to Kepler-186, a five-planet star system about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. (NASA.gov)

Other planets that have been discovered in the habitable zone are either too hot or too large to support life. However, Kepler 186f is similar to Earth in a few ways. It is 10 percent larger than planet Earth and has a 130 day orbital rotation around its M dwarf sun (a star significantly smaller than our G Dwarf sun). These similarities suggest that it is potentially capable of sustaining liquid water.

 

 

However, there are a few key factors that work against Kepler 186f. It is right on the edge of the habitable zone, and with a sun that is significantly smaller than ours, it receives only a fraction of the amount of energy that we get from our sun — about a third. According to The Verge, “…the brightness of the plant’s star at high noon is about equal to the brightness we see on Earth about an hour before sunset.”

 

 

There is still a lot unknowns about our new potential cousin. According to a tweet by NASA from professor Victoria Meadows, “We have no definitive evidence that shows a possible atmosphere on this planet.” Scientists are also unsure of the planet’s surface, but from the information they have gathered so far, they suspect it to be a rocky planet much like our own.

 

 

What do you think of this new habitable planet? Does it get you excited about finding potential life on other planets? Or would this habitable planet be the second home to humans? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @kateeb790!