For centuries, humanity has been fascinated with the idea of an Earth-like planet with the potential to sustain living species. However, years of endless search seem to yield fewer results, but we were not on the verge of giving up on this search for an earth-like planet.
The discovery of Kepler 186f in 2014 resurrected the hope of humanity and gave fresh energy to look into the cosmos in search of Earth-like planets. What did astronomers learn about Kepler 186f? How did the discovery shift our search for extraterrestrial lives? How closely related is Kepler 186f to earth? This article answers these questions and more. Stay tuned.
How the search for Exoplanets began
The search for exoplanets can be traced to centuries ago, when our first astronomers began looking into the stars with their newly invented telescopes. However, the lack of sophisticated telescopes limited our ancient astronomers’ clearer view of the planets outside the solar system.
As we progressed technologically, astronomers began to look into the Cosmos using more advanced telescopes. Exoplanets have remained out of our reach even after successfully sending astronauts to the moon. The first planetary disk of dust and gas around its host star Beta Pictoris was discovered in April 1984 using a 2.5-meter telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.
After this discovery, astronomers became more fascinated with planets beyond the Solar system. After the launch of the Hubble space telescope in 1990, scientists could spot several exoplanets that move in front of their host star, causing a dimming in the star’s brightness.
Astronomers continued searching, hoping to uncover more mysteries about the universe soon. In 1992, Astronomers Aleksander Wolzczan and Dale Frail discovered the first two rocky exoplanets orbiting PSR B1257+12. The PSR B1257+12 is a pulsar that lies in the constellation Virgo.
However, these first exoplanets were heavily bombarded by radiation from the dead neutron star they orbit. In 1995, Astronomers Didier Quoleo and Michel Mayor discovered the first exoplanet orbiting a main sequence star. This discovery revolutionized astronomy and changed the search for earth-like exoplanets.
How Kepler 186f Became the First Earthlike Exoplanet to be Discovered
Earthlike exoplanets have remained out of our reach for decades after discovering the first planetary disk beyond the solar system. However, the discovery of Kepler 186f changed our view of exoplanets. On April 17, 2014, Astronomer Elisa Victoria Quintana discovered Kepler 186f using the Kepler Space Telescope.
From the observation, the astronomer noticed that the exoplanet was orbiting a red dwarf star that lies about 580 light years away from earth. The planet’s radius is about 11% greater than that of Earth. This implies that the Kepler 186f volume is approximately 1.37 times larger than earth.
Astronomers analyzed the data gathered from this discovery and concluded that the planet is earth’s cousin, as it possesses similar characteristics to earth. This exoplanet orbits in the goldilocks zone of its star. Kepler 186f has a force of gravity about 17% greater than earth. Astronomers also estimated that the planet’s equilibrium temperature is about −121 °F (188k, -85 °C).
Fascinating Facts about Kepler 186f Star
Kepler 186f orbits around a dwarf star known as Kepler-186. Aside from Kepler 186f, the other four planets with similar radii to earth are also orbiting the red dwarf. This implies that the star has five planets around its orbit. Scientists also discovered that all these planets are slightly larger than Earth.
Kepler 186 star is about 4 billion years old and has a temperature of 3755k. Comparing this to the sun, you will realize that the sun has a temperature of 5,778k. Keep in mind that our sun is about 4.6 billion years old. This implies that our sun is more aged than Kepler 186 with 600 million years. Since Kepler 186 is a dim red dwarf, it is dimmer and slightly cooler than our sun. The star lies in the constellation of Cygnus.
Is Kepler 186f habitable?
Kepler186f is located at a goldilocks zone of its host star. Planets that stay at the goldilocks zone have the potential to retain liquid water on their surface. However, scientists are yet to determine if the planet is habitable enough to sustain life.
This is because we are yet to determine the condition of the planet’s atmosphere. Kepler 186f is too far away for scientists to analyze its data clearly using any telescope. The Kepler 186f distance from earth is about 557.7 light years away.
So we need to advance technologically to see if we can get a clearer view of the planet’s atmosphere. But astronomers discovered that the planet moves around its host star in higher orbit. This is unlike the other four innermost planets that are tidally locked close to the Kepler 186 star.
Comparing Kepler 186f to Earth
Kepler 186f is about 10 percent more massive than earth. Unlike earth, this exoplanet is much closer to its star. This implies that the planet will rotate much slower than Earth. Despite being too close to its host star, Kepler 186f does not receive the same amount of sunlight as our planet as its star is smaller, cooler, and dimmer than our sun. Due to the small size nature of its host Star, Kepler 186f completes an orbit around its host star every 130 days.
Unlike Earth, with about 93 million miles (152.4 million Kilometers), Kepler’s 186f distance from its sun is about 32.5 million miles (52.4 million kilometers). The brightness of its star on the planet’s surface is similar to sunset on Earth’s surface. Specifically, Kepler 186f receives about 32 percent of sunlight the earth does receive from its star.
This implies that the exoplanet gets a similar amount of the sun as Mars in our Solar system. Like earth, Scientists predicted Kepler 186f is a rocky planet with liquid water on its surface. Because of its close similarities to Earth, Scientists refer to this exoplanet as earth’s cousin. We can uncover more facts about this fascinating exoplanet in our interstellar space when we advance technologically.
Frequently asked questions
What is Kepler’s 186f distance from earth?
Kepler’s 186f distance from earth is about 557.7 light years. This implies that the planet is so distanced from us that we cannot send a space probe to it using our current technology. However, when we develop better propulsion systems, we should be able to reach the planet in the future to learn more about the rocky exoplanet planet orbiting in the goldilocks zone of its star.
What is the Kepler 186f surface made up of?
Scientists studied the exoplanet carefully before concluding that Kepler 186f’s surface is rocky and may contain liquid water. Since The planet orbits in a habitable region of its host star, it has the potential to retain moisture on its surface. We are yet to discover whether the Kepler 186f surface is habitable enough to sustain any living organism. But advancements in technology will surely give us a hint about the exoplanet.
Does Kepler 186f have Oxygen?
The question is, does Kepler 186f have oxygen? Unfortunately, we lack the technology to determine the atmospheric condition of the exoplanet. However, future technologies will likely allow us to determine the atmospheric composition of Kepler 186f.
Kepler 186f has been detected as Earth’s cousin because of its close resemblance to our planet. Despite being in the star’s habitable zone, scientists have yet to determine whether the planet is suitable for life. We will build a telescope to uncover more facts about the star. What do you love about Kepler 186f?