Print 82 comment(s) - last by Schrag4.. on Apr 22 at 9:53 PM

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

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By shadow002 on 4/18/2014 11:00:07 PM , Rating: 2
Read the reply I just posted and why it isn't just about living space, but all that comes with it, and I just pointed out some of them.

RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By SPOOFE on 4/19/2014 1:26:53 PM , Rating: 2
There's no physical reason the planet can't support ten billion people.

RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By JediJeb on 4/21/2014 6:32:56 PM , Rating: 2
You mentioned the problem of us drinking up all the fresh water and then having to rely on the oceans which would cost more to desalinize. So I guess if we add 3 billion more people it is going to stop raining? All that fresh water we have now comes from rain, and rain water comes mostly from sea water that has evaporated into the atmosphere. The Earth has a built in automatic desalinization plant already. Around where I live, we wish it would stop raining because there is too much fresh water here. Of course it seems like a problem when a huge amount of people decide to live in a place like southern California where the rain is often scarce, but that is a social decision not an environmental one.

As far back as the early 1900's people were warning that in a few years the planet would be overpopulated and everyone would die of starvation. The population has more than doubled since then without those predictions coming true. Since 1960 the population of China has doubled and the population of India has tripled. They are not starving off in mass yet, plus there are tons upon tons of food each year around the globe that is discarded and never used. We can support more people even with current agricultural practices, if needed we could improve those to feed even more.

You also mentioned bring water here from other places in our solar system to keep us from running out of drinking water. Where would that be stored, and where would it end up, well most likely in the oceans like all the other water. Now the question is, if you brought in billions and billions of water from off planet what would that added mass do to the planet? Would it affect our climate, or the rotation of the Earth, or even the interaction between the Earth and Sun gravitationally? Currently, no matter how large our population grows or what resources we use up, the mass of the planet remains the same(except for tiny variations from accumulated meteorite impacts and the small amounts of mass we shoot off into space or a little atmospheric loss). This is due to the simple law of conservation of mass, it is neither created or destroyed except when converted to energy in a nuclear reaction, and there is very little converted each year in that process.

The population can grow much larger and still be sustainable, but man will need to learn to control the waste. Not just hazardous waste, but overall waste. We would need to become more efficient, which is happening every day, to continue to sustain ourselves on Earth. Anyone who states that if we add a few billion more people the Earth is going to implode and civilization will end is just fear-mongering.

RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By shadow002 on 4/21/2014 7:18:18 PM , Rating: 2
People don't like to lower their living standards, even if it's for the planets survival....They're too self centered and egotistical for that....It's all about ME ME and more me first.

Also you do realise there are about 1 billion people going without proper nutrition and a clean water supply as it is, so with 3 billion more to deal with?....

RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By JediJeb on 4/22/2014 11:53:53 AM , Rating: 2
Also you do realise there are about 1 billion people going without proper nutrition and a clean water supply as it is, so with 3 billion more to deal with?....

Again, this is not the limitation of the planet or it's resources, it is a social problem. If we had only 1 million people on the planet and 10 people controlled all the wealth and denied clean water and food from the rest by force you would still have 999,990 people without clean water and enough food to eat. The planet can sustain far more people than we currently have. Those who are currently starving are doing so because something or more precisely someone is keeping them from obtaining the food they need. There is enough over production of food just in the United States that the government pays farmers to keep tracts of land planted in grass that is never cut so that it isn't being used to grow crops or livestock. That along with all the national parks lands that are set aside and not used could feed millions or even billions more people.

Social/political problems are different from an actual physical limitation of the planet to support more people.

"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki