Astronomers Find Earth's 'Cousin'
Kepler-186f is called the best bet yet to hold alien life
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2014 5:05 PM CDT
This artist's rendering provided by NASA shows an Earth-sized planet dubbed Kepler-186f orbiting a star 500 light-years from Earth.   (AP Photo/NASA Ames, SETI Institute, JPL-Caltech, T. Pyle)

(Newser) – Other "Earth-like" planets have been discovered before, but a new one is generating a lot of excitement in astronomy circles because of how very Earth-like it actually is. Introducing Kepler-186f, which is maybe 10% bigger than our planet and thought to be in the not-too-hot and not-too-cold range that would make water—and life—possible. "This is the best case for a habitable planet yet found," says a Berkeley astronomer not involved with the discovery. "The results are absolutely rock solid." The planet is about 490 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, and it circles a red dwarf star, reports AP. One known difference: Its year is only about 130 days.

"One of the things we've been looking for is maybe an Earth twin, which is an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a sunlike star," Kepler scientist Tom Barclay tells This one largely fits the bill. "So, while it's not an Earth twin, it is perhaps an Earth cousin." A SETI Institute researcher tells the Atlantic that the idea of finding alien life is "no longer in the realm of science fiction." That's because even if Kepler-186f proves to be a bust in the life-supporting department, its discovery suggests that lots more similar planets are out there waiting to be found, reports the LA Times. It quotes another SETI researcher calling this a "tip-of-the-iceberg discovery."

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Apr 18, 2014 9:07 AM CDT
If a year there is only 130 days, I wonder what the difference is for daylight and darkness? I guess that depends on how fast it spins on its axis.
Apr 18, 2014 3:27 AM CDT
Judging from the mess we humans have made on our planet, very likely any life that exists on this new planet will be more intelligent than life we have here on earth.
Apr 18, 2014 3:07 AM CDT
A planet that circles a 'red' sun, that might have life on it. Why didn't they just call it Krypton?