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    An Earth-Like Planet In A Habitable Zone

    Monday, June 10, 2019 Last Updated 2019-10-23T18:22:42Z
    Discovering life on another planet is the Holy Grail of cosmology. Since we only know for sure of life on our own planet, astronomers are on the lookout for exoplanets that resemble Earth as much as possible, hoping that similar conditions mean a similar potential for life (as we know it).

    To be considered Earth-like, an exoplanet must meet a few basic criteria: It should be roughly the same size Earth and should be located in the habitable zone of its system—the area where temperatures allow for liquid water to exist.

    However, planets are smaller and dimmer than stars, making them much harder to spot. The majority of discovered exoplanets are found using transit photometry—when a planet passes in front of a star, the star’s brightness decreases by a small amount.

    Another successful method is radial velocity—orbiting planets actually have a minute gravitational effect on the stars themselves, causing them to travel in a small orbit.

    The trouble is that both of these methods work best with giants like Jupiter, not Earth-like exoplanets. But last year we finally discovered the first genuine Earth-like planet in the habitable zone.

    The planet is called Kepler-186f and it orbits Kepler-186, a red dwarf 500 light-years from Earth. The exoplanet is only 10 percent larger than Earth and orbits its star every 130 days.

    Four other planets orbit the same star at a much closer distance, making them too hot for recognizable life to develop.

    The discovery proved that planets similar to Earth are not only possible, but likely a common occurrence throughout the Universe.


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