Astronomers Uncover Earth-Like Planet That Could Support Life

by Rachel Baker on April 17, 2014

This is pretty cool. Come oooooooon, warp drive!

Astronomers have discovered a distant planet that appears to have an atmosphere similar to Earth, the possibility of water at its surface and the theoretical potential to support life.

It is the first validated planet found in the “habitable zone,” defined by the distance from a star that might allow for the existence of liquid water. The planet is orbiting Kepler-186, a dwarf star that’s cooler than Earth’s sun and burns hydrogen, according to a report in the journal Science. Life is most likely to arise on planets with liquid water.

“The host star, Kepler 186, is an M1-type dwarf star which means it will burn hydrogen forever,” said Justin Crepp, as astrophysicist from the University of Notre Dame who worked on the mission. “There is ample opportunity to develop life around this particular star and because it has just the right orbital period, water may exist in a liquid phase.”

The planet was found using the Kepler Space Telescope and confirmed by ruling out other possibilities for what astronomers were seeing with the Gemini North and Keck II telescopes, both located on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, according to Steve Howell, Kepler’s project scientists and a report author.

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