Home > Lifestyle > Features
Saturday April 19, 2014 MYT 9:20:00 PM
Monday April 21, 2014 MYT 12:36:37 PM
by irene klotz
Scientists have found an Earth-sized world they've named Kepler-186f orbiting in a life-friendly zone around a distant star called Kepler-186.
The discovery, announced on Thursday, is the closest scientists have come so far to finding a true Earth twin. The star is located about 500 light years away in the constellation Cygnus, is smaller and redder than the sun.
The star’s outermost planet, designated Kepler-186f, receives about one-third the radiation from its parent star as Earth gets from the sun, meaning that high noon on this world would be roughly akin to Earth an hour before sunset, said astronomer Thomas Barclay, with NASA’s Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, California.
The planet is the right distance from its host star for water – if any exists – to be liquid on the surface, a condition that scientists suspect is necessary for life.
“This planet is an Earth cousin, not an Earth twin,” said Barclay, who is among a team of scientists reporting on the discovery in the journal Science this week.
NASA launched its Kepler space telescope in 2009 to search about 150,000 target stars for signs of any planets passing by, or transiting, relative to the telescope’s point of view. Kepler was sidelined by a positioning system failure last year.
Analysis of archived Kepler data continues. From Kepler’s observational perch, a planet about the size and location of Earth orbiting a sun-like star would blot out only about 80 to 100 photons out of every million as it transits.
The pattern is repeated every 365 days and at least three transits would be needed to rule out other possibilities, so the search takes time.
“It’s very challenging to find Earth analogs,” Barclay said. “Most candidates don’t pan out, but things change as we get more measurements.”
Scientists don’t know anything about the atmosphere of Kepler-186f, but it will be a target for future telescopes that can scan for tell-tale chemicals that may be linked to life.
“This planet is in the habitable zone, but that’s doesn’t mean it is habitable,” Barclay said.
So far, scientists have found nearly 1,800 planets beyond the solar system.
“The past year has seen a lot of progress in the search for Earth-like planets. Kepler-168f is significant because it is the first exoplanet that is the same temperature and is (almost) the same size as Earth,” astronomer David Charbonneau, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, wrote in an email.
“For me the impact is to prove that yes, such planets really do exist,” Charbonneau said. “Now we can point to a star and say, “There lies an Earth-like planet.’” – Reuters
Tags / Keywords:
Lifestyle, Features, Science, Astronomy, Kepler 186f, exoplanet, discovery, Earth, almost like Earth, life friendly zone, habitable zone, NASA
Water vapour found at distant exoplanet HAT-P-11b
Double solar storms may cause electronic disruptions
New seafloor map reveals stunning details of Earth’s depths
Smelly and contaminated, the world’s open dumps are growing
California blue whales bounce back from extinction
Capoeira, yurts, saunas make world heritage list
Docs should ask heart patients about second-hand smoke
Pak Daud’s ‘mee kari’ hits the spot
British author P.D. James dies at 94
Are we concerned about expanding waistlines in Malaysia?
'Red Band Society' will not be renewed
Pope urges solidarity to stop aggressors in Syria and Iraq
Splashing time for visitors
Are US shoppers falling out of love with Black Friday?
Copyright © 1995-2014 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)