NASA discovers ‘Earth-like’ planet

Planet Kepler-186f is located at a distance from the sun where liquid water can exist on its surface

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U.S.-based scientists have discovered a “rocky” new planet, considered to be the most “Earth-like” planet discovered so far, NASA reported.

The new planet, Kepler-186f, was discovered by NASA’s Kepler telescope. It is around 500 light years away from planet Earth, a distance that makes it invisible to the naked eye, the BBC reported.

The planet is located in located in the “habitable zone,” a specific distance from the sun where liquid water can exist on its surface. It receives one-third of the energy that the Earth receives from the sun.

Its mass, composition and density are still unknown to scientists but researchers estimate that is bigger than our planet, with a radius that is about 10 percent larger than Earth’s.

Kepler 186f travels around a small and cool star in the Cygnus constellation. Of the five planets in the system, its orbit is furthest away from the star and lasts about 130 days.

Professor Kane, an astrophysicist from San Francisco State University, said in an interview with the BBC: “Even though it is orbiting a star which is very different from our Sun, the planet itself - both in terms of size and the amount of energy it is receiving from its star - is the most similar planet to our Earth that we’ve yet discovered.

“That is great news in terms of looking for planets which might actually be similar to the Earth, especially as the kind of star it does orbit - which is a very small star - are amongst the most common in the galaxy.”

The team believes it to be a rocky planet.

Kane explained: “There seems to be a transition that occurs at about 1.5 times the Earth’s radius, such that if the planet is larger, then it starts to develop a very substantial atmosphere very similar to what we see in the gas giant planets in our own Solar System.

“And so anything less than 1.5 is probably more like a rocky planet that we are familiar with.”