Scientists working with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope program are continuing to pore over the mountain of data the spacecraft, and probably will for years to come. And now they’ve announced a major result: the first confirmed Earthlike planet that is close to Earth’s size and in the habitable zone of its parent star.
The new planet is Kepler 186f, less than 10% larger than Earth, and it orbits a small star about half the size of our own Sun. Since its star (Kepler 186) is so much smaller than the Sun, the habitable zone is also smaller; Kepler 186f orbits in just 180 days. There are also at least four planets inwards from Kepler 186f, but they are too close to the star to be habitable.
This system is much too far away to colonize in the near future; it’s 500 light years away, in the constellation Cygnus. But it’s a tantalizing taste for what awaits as the search for extrasolar planets continues. 😉