NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope delivered the discovery of Earth 2.0. This is a historical find given this is the first time we identified an Earth-sized planet orbiting its star’s habitable zone. The planet has been officially named Kepler-186f. We prefer Earth 2.0.
Kepler-186f resides in the Kepler-186 system, about 500 light-years from Earth in the Cygnus constellation.
Finding Kepler-186f is significant because it confirms that Earth-sized planets exist in the habitable zone of stars, other than our own Sun. While NASA had previously identified other planets in the habitable zone of stars, they were all significantly larger than Earth.
Although we know Kepler-186f’s size, its mass and composition is yet to be established, so don’t break open the champagne just yet in readiness to evacuate Earth 1.0, once we finished ruining it.
Kepler-186f orbits its star once every 130-days and receives only one-third the energy from its star that Earth gets from our Sun, placing it at the outer edge of the habitable zone. On its surface, the brightness of its star at midday would only be as bright as our Sun appears to us about an hour before sunset.
July has been a big month for space-boffins, as this discovery comes on the heels of the recent announcement by Stephen Hawking of a $100 million grant by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, towards a renewed search for signs of extraterrestrial life, called Breakthrough Initiatives.
A project, called Breakthrough Listen, initially funded for 10 years, will look for signals that could be alien in origin, whether deliberately sent into space or leaked broadcasts.
Breakthrough Listen will have an unprecedented scope and will survey the 1 million closest stars to Earth, the center of our galaxy and the entire galactic plane. Beyond the Milky Way, it will also listen for messages from the 100 closest galaxies.
Another project, Breakthrough Message, will launch a competition, with a $1 million prize pool, for the design of digital messages that represent humanity and planet Earth.
And of course there was the historic Pluto flyby mission by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on 14 July, providing us with the best ever images of Pluto, and a new understanding of the outer reaches of our solar system.