Scientists Discover Earth-Like Planet 500 Light Years Away

Posted: Jul 2 2018, 10:49am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Scientists Discover Earth-Like Planet 500 Light Years Away
Image Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

Earth-Like Exoplanet May Contain Life As It Has Stable Climate And Regular Seasons.

According to new research conducted by scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology, Kepler-186F, an exoplanet in another solar system has life-supporting conditions very similar to Earth, it is situated in Lyra constellation around 500 light years away from our own planet.

A planet’s distance from its star is a very important factor for the existence of biological life. If it is too near it is too hot to sustain life, if it is too far it is too cold for anything to survive.

Along with many other factors, the presence of water in the liquid state is the key to the origin of biological life. And Kepler-186F orbit around its sun lies within that habitable zone.

Another major factor is the availability of regular seasons and stable climate, and these conditions depend on the stability and degree of variations in a planet’s spin axis and tilt, these conditions directly affect how sunlight is received by a planet.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology created simulations to understand Kepler-186F’s spin axis variations, interestingly, they found that these conditions on this planet are very stable and the planet has climate and different seasons very identical with Earth.

Apart from Kepler-186F, the researchers also mentioned another planet that has ideal life-supporting conditions, named Kepler-62F, this large planet is positioned around 1,200 light years away from Earth.

The axial tilt of a planet plays a very important role in the stability of its climate, planet Mars also lies within the habitable distance zone from the Sun, but the large variation in its axial tilt converted it from a water-rich planet to current cold desert rock. According to scientists billions of years ago, Mars had a lot of water bodies on its surface.

“Mars is in the habitable zone in our solar system, but its axial tilt has been very unstable — varying from zero to 60 degrees,” said Georgia Tech Assistant Professor Gongjie Li, who led the study together with graduate student Yutong Shan from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “That instability probably contributed to the decay of the Martian atmosphere and the evaporation of surface water.”

In every 10,000 years Earth’s axial tilt vary from 22.1 to 24.5 degrees, this mild variation makes it a life-sustaining planet. Earth gravitational pull between Mars, Mercury and Venus strongly affect the rotation of its axis, fortunately, due to its large size, our Moon counter check these variations from the gravitational pull of these other planets.

Earth and Moon are in fact referred to as double planet system, due to their small size Mars’s moon does not generate enough pull to stabilize its axial tilt, and this is why the unstable climate on Mars may not sustain life, Mars’s axial tilt varies from zero to 60 degrees.

Life can survive and evolve even in very extreme conditions, this has already been proved after microbiological organisms were discovered in extreme conditioned places on Earth itself. So, scientists have not yet accepted or discarded the possibility of some kind of biological life on Mars.

But the two planets found by the researchers have more ideal conditions as compared with Mars or many other planets discovered by now.

“Our study is among the first to investigate climate stability of exoplanets and adds to the growing understanding of these potentially habitable nearby worlds,” said Li, one of the lead researchers.

“I don’t think we understand enough about the origin of life to rule out the possibility of their presence on planets with irregular seasons, “added Shan, another researcher, “Even on Earth, life is remarkably diverse and has shown incredible resilience in extraordinarily hostile environments. But a climatically stable planet might be a more comfortable place to start.”

About Kepler:

Kepler is a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-size planets orbiting other stars. Named after astronomer Johannes Kepler, the spacecraft was launched on March 7, 2009, into an Earth-trailing heliocentric orbit. The principal investigator was William J. Borucki.

Designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way to discover Earth-size exoplanets in or near habitable zones and estimate how many of the billions of stars in the Milky Way have such planets, Kepler's sole scientific instrument is a photometer that continually monitors the brightness of approx 150,000 main sequence stars in a fixed field of view. These data are transmitted to Earth, then analyzed to detect periodic dimming caused by exoplanets that cross in front of their host star

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
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