This is remarkable. Exoplanet hunters appear to have found the closest Earth analog yet, a slightly larger and similarly rocky version of our world 490 light years away orbiting its sun at a range that makes it possible for liquid water to exist on the planet's surface.
'This is the first definitive Earth-sized planet found in the habitable zone around another star,' Elisa Quintana, of the SETI Institute and NASA's Ames Research Center and the lead author of a new study detailing the findings, said in a statement.
Other planets of various sizes have been found in the habitable zones of their stars. However, Kepler-186f is the first alien planet this close to Earth in size found orbiting in that potentially life-supporting area of an extrasolar system, according to exoplanet scientists.
Before losing its ability hold a steady gaze on a field of hundreds of thousands of stars while looking for the telltale dips in light that would indicate that a body is passing regularly in front of the star, Kepler logged tens of thousands of potential planetary candidates that scientists will be analyzing for years to come. Kepler-186f is the most promising exoplanet yet in the search for life beyond our own solar system.
In what is now looking like incredible timing, Lee Billings, the author of a book about the search for life beyond our home world, "Five Billion Years of Solitude," will speak at IdeaFestival 2014. Even better: the lowest priced Festival Passes of the year are now on sale, but only through April 27! You don't want to miss Lee and other announced speakers like Debbie Millman, Claudia Hammond, Jason Felts and Steve Pemberton.
Many more speakers will be announced very soon!
Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech