Hawaii scientists help NASA make astronomical find
Updated On: Apr 17 2014 07:21:06 PM HST
Hawaii scientists have helped NASA researchers find a planet that is around the same size as Earth and is capable of harboring life.
An artist rendering was created of the new planet NASA scientists found, which may have water – a key ingredient to life. The planet also exists in a so-called "Goldilocks Zone"; not too far and not to close to its sun.
"Kepler 186 is now a planet closest in size to Earth. The inhabitable zone of its star, Kepler 186 is special because we already know planet of this size in a habitable zone is capable of supporting life as we know it," said Elisa Quintana, NASA's Research Scientist.
The planet is one of five revolving around a distant star called Kepler 186.
"Kepler 186F orbits a cooler star than the sun, so it's perhaps more of Earth's cousin than Earth's twin," said Tom Barclay, a NASA research scientist. "Kepler 186 will exhibit more transit. It will go around the star more times than Earth would. Kepler 186 goes around its star 130 days. Earth goes around every 365 days."
The Kepler Space Telescope discovered the planet, but the W.M. Keck Observatory and Gemini Observatory on top of Mauna Kea played a crucial role in confirming the data.
"We learned from the Kepler team that there was a suspected planet going around it and we used our adaptive optic system, sharper than even the Hubble telescope to take these pictures that showed there was no background object that [is a] possible explanation for this is a planet," said Greg Wirth, Keck astronomer.
Kepler 186F is about 500 light years away from our planet.
To put that in perspective, it would take more than 2 million years using one of NASA's space crafts to get to this distant planet.
Scientists believe the planet which is several billion years old doesn't have a moon and is most likely rocky.
NASA believes there may be other habitable planets in the universe. So this unique discovery begs the question, are we really on the only planet with living beings?
There are still plenty of unanswered questions about the planet like if it has an atmosphere or one that will sustain life.
Scientists will continue searching space to see if there are other planets out there like Earth.
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