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theatlantic:

This Is Big: Scientists Just Found Earth’s First-Cousin

Right now, 500 light years away from Earth, there’s a planet that looks a lot like our own. It is bathed in dim orangeish light, which at high noon is only as bright as the golden hour before sunset back home. 

NASA scientists are calling the planet Kepler-186f, and it’s unlike anything they’ve found. The big news: Kepler-186f is the closest relative to the Earth that researchers have discovered. 

It’s the first Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of another star—the sweet spot between too-hot Mercury-like planets and too-cold Neptunes— and it is likely to give scientists their first real opportunity to seek life elsewhere in the universe. “It’s no longer in the realm of science fiction,” said Elisa Quintana, a researcher at the SETI Institute. 

But if there is indeed life on Kepler-186f, it may not look like what we have here. Given the redder wavelengths of light on the planet, vegetation there would sprout in hues of yellow and orange instead of green.

Read more. [Image: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech]

ohstarstuff:

NASA’s Kepler Telescope Discovers First Earth-Size Planet in ‘Habitable Zone’

  • Kepler-186f is 1.1 times the size of Earth.
  • Due to its size and location, it’s likely to be rocky. It’s (probably) not some gaseous ball.
  • It’s 500 lightyears away from Earth.
  • Scientists hypothesize it is at least several billion years old.
  • Its years are 130 days long and it gets one-third the energy from its star that Earth gets from the sun. So it’s chilly. On the chilliest end of the habitable zone.
  • At noon on Kepler-186f, its sun would be about as bright as ours is an hour before sunset.
  • It has four brother planets, though none of them are habitable. They fly around their sun once every four, seven, 13 and 22 days, so they are way too close and too hot for life.
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