Another New Earth… Or Not.
You may have heard the news last week that astronomers discovered the best candidate to date for an Earth-like planet. Kepler-186f is a rocky planet that is, like other so-called “second Earths”, the right distance away from its parent star to have liquid water on its surface and maybe have the right conditions for maybe having life if that’s the kind of thing that maybe exists somewhere else… maybe.
As Adam Mann writes for WIRED, there’s a lot we don’t know about this exoplanet, and a lot that makes it not very Earth-like. Like the fact that its star is way different from ours. And that we haven’t imaged it directly. Matt Francis adds his two cents at The Daily Beast, noting that a planet that close to its parent star is tidally locked, with the same side facing, and being baked by, its parent star all the time. Sounds like it’s more of an Earth-cousin at best.
It’s not right to call this planet a “New Earth” (and I can almost guarantee that the Face of Boe does not and will not ever live there), because there’s just too much that we don’t know about it. The same goes for other exoplanets: For every question they answer they force us to ask three more. But that’s science. What is cool about this latest discovery is that it shows us just how many types of stars, even weird ones like the M class red dwarf that 186f orbits, can harbor Earth-ish planets in their habitable zone.
The more we discover, the stronger the case that life exists somewhere, elsewhere. If you’d like to know more about our search for exoplanets and the life we hope they harbor, I did two videos on that for IOTBS. Watch ‘em below:
(Image via NASA)