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No signs of life yet

The question of whether life exists on other planets will always remain a curiosity as we continue venturing into space. Movies like "E.T." and "Alien" are just a couple examples of our fascination with such an idea. 

NASA, as our government space agency, is obviously curious as well. But we could be a step closer to answering such questions as NASA has found the first Earth-Size planet in the 'habitable zone' of another star. 

According to NASA, the Kepler Space Telescope found an Earth-sized planet orbiting a star in the habitable zone, which is the range of distance from a star where liquid water might collect on the surface of an orbiting planet -- meaning the possibility of life. 

The new planet has been dubbed Kepler-186f, and it is about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. It orbits a star -- which is classified as an M dwarf, or red dwarf -- half the size and mass of our sun.

Kepler-186f orbits its star once every 130-days and receives one-third the energy from its star that Earth gets from the sun. This puts it near the outer edge of the habitable zone. 
 
The brightness of its star at high noon is only as bright as Earth's sun appears about an hour before sunset. Further, NASA isn't quite sure yet, but it believes Kepler-186f's surface rocky.
 

A sketch of Kepler-186f [SOURCE: NASA]

Kepler-186f isn't alone over there, though. It has four companion planets, called Kepler-186b, Kepler-186c, Kepler-186d, and Kepler-186e. They make their way around their sun every four, seven, 13, and 22 days respectively, and they're too hot for any life to exist on them. 
 
Size is key here. While planets have been discovered in the habitable zone before, they haven't been the same size as Earth, which makes it harder for us to understand fully. The four companion planets, for example, all measure less than 1.5 times the size of Earth. Also, previously discovered planets in the habitable zone were were at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth. 

With Kepler-186f being about the same size as Earth, we can have a clearer idea of behaviors, topography, etc. But as of right now, its mass and composition are unknown. 

Unfortunately, whether it contains other life is also unknown at this time. But it's always a worthy consideration when stumbling upon new planets in what are considered "habitable" areas. 

"The discovery of Kepler-186f is a significant step toward finding worlds like our planet Earth," said Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division director at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Future NASA missions, like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the James Webb Space Telescope, will discover the nearest rocky exoplanets and determine their composition and atmospheric conditions, continuing humankind's quest to find truly Earth-like worlds."

Source: NASA



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RE: Absurd Methodology
By lake393 on 4/18/2014 5:30:40 PM , Rating: 3
If you knew a bit about chemistry, then you'd realize that silicon doesn't form as many chemicals as carbon, nor is any life possible without a liquid solvent such as the universal solvent (liquid water).

So if you actually think it's "deeply flawed" and "incredibly short-sighted" to search for life in habitble zones instead of, say the atmosphere of gas giants or other extremely cold/hot/hostile places, then perhaps your own understanding of life sciences could use some polishing.


RE: Absurd Methodology
By Camikazi on 4/18/2014 7:40:25 PM , Rating: 1
Didn't we also believe that the sun was a god and that the atom was the smallest particle there is? Just because we have not found it doesn't mean it can't happen, maybe we are missing something that would let us realize that silicon life is possible.


RE: Absurd Methodology
By SPOOFE on 4/18/2014 8:36:14 PM , Rating: 3
I don't think believing the sun to be a deity for want of any other available explanation is at all comparable to the robust and extensive chemical knowledge we've accrued. I think hoping for physically-unlikely developments because "life finds a way! ::handwave::" is more akin to sun-god worship, myself.


RE: Absurd Methodology
By Camikazi on 4/19/2014 5:31:26 PM , Rating: 1
It isn't hoping for it but not being closed-minded to information that can show it can exist. Also worshipping the sun for want of another explanation is the same as denying another form of life can exist because we don't have information to support it.


RE: Absurd Methodology
By SPOOFE on 4/20/2014 2:43:08 PM , Rating: 3
It is close-minded to deny the robust and extensive knowledge of chemistry we've accrued. Exploring every remote possibility would be great, but we don't have infinite resources to indulge. What we KNOW is that life can be carbon-based and can exist in a certain zone around certain stars. Everything else is wishful thinking.


RE: Absurd Methodology
By superPC on 4/19/2014 6:51:22 PM , Rating: 2
I think both of you are right. You lack imagination though. In a different pressure and temperature condition to earth, other liquid can be a universal solvent. Scientist thinks methane ocean on titan act like ocean on earth & there might be life there so different from our own ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_on_Titan ). How about Jupiter? Scientist think life is possible there too ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter#Possibility_o... ).

I think the reason scientist focus their search of life on worlds much like our own has less to do with the possibility of life unlike our own, but more to do with simply narrowing down the parameters. We know for certain life evolves on earth. Therefore if we find other planets similar to earth, maybe life evolves there too. Without visiting titan or Jupiter, we will never know if life really did evolve there, so why search for planet with such characteristic?

Even if life evolves on mars or Venus, those are still earth like worlds, ones that we’ve been finding more and more with kepler help.


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