Earth-size Planet Discovered Orbiting Within Habitable Zone of Star

Earth-sized planets could be more common than we first assumed

This artists conception of Kepler-186f is elegant, but still imagination at work
This artist’s conception of Kepler-186f is elegant, but still imagination at work

Space news (astrophysics: exoplanets; Kepler-186f )

NASA astronomers working with the Kepler Space Telescope have discovered the first Earth-sized planet orbiting within the ‘habitable zone’ of its host star. Kepler-186f, as its name implies, is in the Kepler-186 star system, around 500 light-years from Sol in the constellation Cygnus. A discovery that implies planets the size of Earth, residing within their host star’s habitable zone, could be more common than we first thought.

Space scientists believe there’s a good chance Kepler-186f is a rocky planet, similar in many ways to the Earth. The fact it resides within the habitable zone implies liquid water could exist on the surface of this planet and possibly life based on the same principles as on Earth. The M dwarf, or red dwarf, sun it orbits is a common star making up about 70 percent of the suns in our home galaxy and is only half the volume and mass of Sol. This star is also orbited by four other planets, according to the latest information, but this number could change as more data is obtained.

“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.”

NASA astronomers have no idea, yet, what Kepler-186f is made of, or even its mass. They’ll now focus more instruments and time to look into some of these facts, and hopefully, soon we’ll know a lot more about this possible twin-Earth.

“We know of just one planet where life exists — Earth. When we search for life outside our solar system we focus on finding planets with characteristics that mimic that of Earth,” said Elisa Quintana, a research scientist at the SETI Institute at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and lead author of the paper published today in the journal Science. “Finding a habitable zone planet comparable to Earth in size is a major step forward.”

Earth-size planets are more familiar to scientists than the larger planets discovered lying within the habitable zone of their host stars. It will be easier to understand the data they obtain concerning Kepler-186f, and hopefully, this translates into a better picture of the planet.

M dwarfs are the most numerous stars,” said Quintana. “The first signs of other life in the galaxy may well come from planets orbiting an M dwarf.”

What would a day on Kepler-186f be like? This planet is near the outer boundary of its host star’s habitable zone, which results in it receiving about 30 percent of the energy Earth gets from Sol. Viewed from the surface of the planet at high noon, the host star would only be as bright as Sol an hour before sunset. A day on Kepler-186f isn’t going to be a walk in the park on a sunny day.

“Being in the habitable zone does not mean we know this planet is habitable. The temperature on the planet is strongly dependent on what kind of atmosphere the planet has,” said Thomas Barclay, a research scientist at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute at Ames, and co-author of the paper. “Kepler-186f can be thought of as an Earth-cousin rather than an Earth-twin. It has many properties that resemble Earth.”

What’s next for the team?

The next step for NASA astronomers is to find Earth-size planets that are a true twin for Earth, which will be a day to remember. Determining the chemical composition of any planets found will be an exciting time for both astronomers and humankind. A planet with a similar chemical composition to Earth would open up eyes and change the prospect of the possibility of alien life in the galaxy and universe.

It would truly be something to experience.

What is the possibility of alien life existing in the universe? Read “The Possibility of Intelligent Lifeforms Existing in the Universe”.

What has Kepler discovered lately? Read “Kepler Mission Introduces 715 New Planets

Read about “The Search for Life Beyond Earth Takes a Turn at Jupiter

Watch this YouTube video on Kepler-186f

Bohemia Interactive Launches First Manned Mission to Mars

Expedition One looking for rough and ready candidates to “Take on Mars”

Take on Mars allows you to virtually travel to Mars and set up permanent living accommodations
Take on Mars allows you to virtually travel to Mars and set up permanent living accommodations

Space news – (Mars) Have you dreamed of being one of the first humans to travel to the Red Planet and set up permanent accommodations? Bohemia Interactive is looking for a few good men and women to crew the first manned mission to Mars. Expedition One will travel to Mars, explore the planet, and construct suitable living accommodations for a permanent stay.

No Rose Garden

Expedition One of Take on Mars is currently looking for a few good men and women to act as crew for the first manned mission to Mars
Expedition One of Take on Mars is currently looking for a few good men and women to act as crew for the first manned mission to Mars

Living and surviving in the harsh environments of Mars will be unlike any adventure you have experienced on planet Earth. This journey will require you to go well beyond climbing the tallest mountain or sailing the deepest sea. The challenges before you exceed those faced by every human adventurer that has travelled into unknown lands. Your name shall go down in history as one of the first human beings to successfully inhabit the Red Planet or die trying.

You’ll need to manage the resources you take along and search for resources you need to survive once you construct a habitat. Oxygen and water will be required both for survival and to grow plants to supplement food stocks. Getting all the necessary minerals and vitamins required for normal human development and survival is going to be a real challenge on Mars.

Bohemia Interactive’s “Take on Mars” is a simulation of the first manned mission to Mars, allowing gamers and budding scientists to experience the thrill and challenge of travelling to the Red Planet and setting up permanent accommodations. Expedition One is the first phase of plans for the human race to virtually colonize Mars; just one step in the human journey to Mars.

You can sign up for Expedition One and “Take on Mars” on Steam for only $14 Euro/ $18 US/ $12 Pounds. This is the adventure you dreamed of living. Time to start living the dream!

 

What are the chances of alien lifeforms existing in the universe? Read “The Possibility of Intelligent Lifeforms in the Universe

 Want to join the hunt for asteroids that could destroy the Earth? Read “NASA’s Asteroid Hunting Contest

Journey into the heart of a supernova reading “NASA’s Spitzer Telescope Stares into the Chaos of Supernova M82

 

Astronomers can provide a rough estimate of the number of stars in a galaxy

The Possibility of Intelligent Lifeforms Existing in the Universe

Crunching the numbers leaves little doubt in the minds of many scientists and broad thinkers

Astronomers can provide a rough estimate of the number of stars in a galaxy
Astronomers can provide a rough estimate of the number of stars in a galaxy

Space news – We can estimate the number of galaxies and thus approximately how many stars there are in the universe. Can we extrapolate the number of possible intelligent lifeforms in the universe? Lifeforms with an advanced civilization and technology?

Astronomers also have a very rough estimate for the number of galaxies they see
Astronomers also have a very rough estimate for the number of galaxies they see

NASA astronomers are finding more and more planets orbiting distant stars using the Hubble Space Telescope. Space scientists on Earth find microbes still surviving after thousands of years frozen in ice and thriving in environments we once thought hostile to life.

NASA astronomers have confirmed the existence of exo-planets orbiting distant stars
NASA astronomers have confirmed the existence of exoplanets orbiting distant stars

Astronomers estimate the Milky Way contains around 400 billion suns, give or take a few. Sol is only one of these stars. They also estimate the universe holds a minimum of 125 billion galaxies.

If we crunch the numbers a bit, we find the universe contains roughly 400 X 125 billion billion, or 50,000 billion billion stars. We won’t at this time include the number of planets per sun in the universe, which would make our estimate even less precise. NASA space scientists and astronomers haven’t determined this number and the knowledge we have now isn’t sufficient enough to come to even a rough estimate.

How many of these suns have intelligent life living on a planet in orbit with a highly advanced civilization and technology? In future articles, we’ll try to narrow this number down a bit, by estimating the number of intelligent life forms in the Milky Way.

Let me know what you think? Take part in our poll below.

Warren Wong, 

Managing Editor

Learn how orbits of asteroids within the Main Asteroid belt are calculated.

Learn more about the search for life on Europa.

Read about the African Dogon tribe and their cosmology.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Approaches Kimberly Region

Astronomy News – 2014/03/25

NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover could be traversing terrain similar to large grained sandstone deposits found on Earth scientists studying images taken of the region surrounding the spacecraft believe.

The 160 degree landscape panorama below photographed by Curiosity’s Navigation Camera (Navcam) on February 19, 2014 during a stop on the missions 574th day shows an eroded sandstone outcrop called Junda and Mount Sharp on the horizon. The panoramic image below is centered on “the Kimberley”, a region 282 feet south from the rovers location, NASA scientists are heading Curiosity toward.

The 160 degree panorama here was taken by the Curiosity Mars Rover.
The 160 degree panorama here was taken by the Curiosity Mars Rover.

The 360-degree panorama below is also centered on the Kimberley region to the south. The outcrop of eroded sandstone in the foreground is the same one seen in the 160 degree panorama above.

The 360 degree panorama here is south of the Kimberley
The 360 degree panorama here is south of the Kimberley

The Kimberley region and Mount Sharp were chosen as prime targets of interest for NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover due to study of images taken from orbit of the region last year. Planetary scientists want to take a look at the Kimberley region because four types of sandstone with different textures intersect there.

“The orbital images didn’t tell us what those rocks are, but now that Curiosity is getting closer, we’re seeing a preview,” said Curiosity Deputy Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “

The contrasting heights of sandstone here indicates varying erosion resistance
The contrasting heights of sandstone here indicates varying erosion resistance

The contrasting textures and durabilities of sandstones in this area are fascinating. While superficially similar, the rocks likely formed and evolved quite differently from each other.”

The resistance to erosion of different rock types in a location 400 meters north-northwest of the Kimberley results in the different elevations and surfaces shades seen here. Higher elevations indicates more erosion resistant rock, while the flat, tanned surface is a sandstone with low resistance to erosion. This means the medium height rocks to the right center are less resistant to erosion than the taller rocks at the top of the image.

In earth geology sand is defined as fragmentary sediment smaller than 2 mm and 0.062 mm in diameter. Sandstone is the second most abundant sedimentary rock (20-25%) on Earth. The environment of deposition of surface rocks is generally related to mineral composition. A study of erosion of surface rocks and their mineral composition could provide planetary scientists with clues concerning the environment sandstone was formed in millions of years ago.

In geology the material between grains of sand in sandstone is called cement, whatever it’s composition. On earth the particular characteristics of cement varies quite a bit, depending on the environmental and geophysical history of the sandstone formation studied. Sandstones with a high percentage of clay-minerals are generally soft and will readily crumble when hit with a hammer. Sandstone with quartz cement is usually hard and rings when struck with a hammer.

Planetary scientists are hoping to have time in the planned schedule of Curiosity to study the sandstone in the Kimberly region. The results would be very interesting and could tell us a lot about the geological history of the Red Planet.

For the most part, the surface terrain NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover has travelled over thus far was finer grained mud stone, rather than the coarser-grained sandstone outcroppings they expect to discover once they reach the Kimberley region of Mars. Sandstone has been seen in a number of different forms on planet Earth and some earth scientists were probably expecting forms to exist on other planets. Time permitting, planetary scientists are hoping to grab a sample of the terrain in the Kimberley region, they can study in depth using laboratory instruments inside Curiosity.

As with earth geology, an understanding of the process that created the different sandstone formations and outcrops in the Kimberly region, could help explain terrain found in Mars Gale Crater and the reason it has a large layered mountain, Mount Sharp, near its center.

“A major issue for us now is to understand why some rocks resist erosion more than other rocks, especially when they are so close to each other and are both likely to be sandstones,” said Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego.

Read this article on how you can take part in the hunt to find nearby asteroids capable of striking the Earth.  “NASA’s Asteroid Hunting Contest

Read this article on NASA’s Spitzer Telescope looking into the heart of a supernova. “NASA’s Spitzer Telescope Stares into the Chaos of Supernova M82

Read this article on the search for life beyond Earth. “The Search for Life Beyond Earth Takes a Turn at Jupiter