NASA has announced the findings of an Earth like planet in an on-going planet-finding mission, named Kepler.
The planet, now known as Kepler-186f is 490 light years away from the Earth. The newly found planet is orbiting its star in habitable zone.
The planet is 1.1 times the size of Earth and has a diameter of 8,700 miles. Its orbit lies within the “Goldilocks zone” of its star, Kepler 186 — not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow at the surface, making it potentially hospitable for life.Although NASA have found hundreds of planets similar to the Earth but none in habitable zone thus Kepler-186f is a major breakthrough. The planet has gravity and surface similar to the Earth.
Finding an Earth-sized planet near an M dwarf is actually easier than finding one near a star like our own, says Dr. Barclay, a research scientist at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute at NASA Ames. “M dwarfs are great targets to search for habitable worlds,” he says.
“M dwarfs … range in size from about 10 percent of the size of the sun to about half the size of the sun. Kepler-186 here is on the larger end of the scale, being about half the size of the Sun. The size difference helps us find planets,” he explains. “The larger the star, the shallower the transit, because what we measure is the ratio between the size of the planet and the size of the star. So you shrink the star and you get a deeper transit. Deeper transits are easier to detect, so we find it easier to detect smaller planets around these smaller stars.”
Plus, M dwarfs are incredibly common. “They’re the most abundant stars in our galaxy,” says Barclay. “There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy, and 7 out of every 10 of them are M dwarfs. This means that most Earth-type planets in their habitable zones will be around M dwarfs, simply because most stars are M dwarfs. They’re also our nearest neighbors. Most of the nearest-by stars to us are M dwarfs. Now when you go out to your backyard and look at the sky, you won’t see any M dwarfs. They’re very faint – you can’t see any of them with the naked eye – however they are there.”