sparked the notion of space nerds everywhere four years ago when NASA declared it the first potentially habitable, earth-like planet to have been confirmed beyond our solar system. A new study shows that the Exoplanet 500 light-years away could also have seasons and a similar climate.
So far scientists believe that they know Kepler 186f orbits in the so-called "Goldilocks Zone" near a dwarf star in the direction of the constellation Cygnus. That is, the temperatures are right for water to collect on the surface. The size and mass of the planet also shows that it has a rocky surface like that of our planet.
Now, a new research at Georgia Tech University has analyzed the spin and axial tilt of the planet and found that its inclination is stable like that of Earth. Kepler 186f probably also has regular seasons and a stable climate.
This is no small matter when it comes to determining how friendly a planet could be for the development of life. As study co-author and Georgia Tech Assistant professor Gongjie Li explains, large fluctuations in Mars's inclination could contribute to its sinking into the barren world it is today.
Mars had an unstable slope over the eons of up to 60 degrees. "This instability has probably contributed to the collapse of the Martian atmosphere and the evaporation of surface water," Li said in a statement. The research was published in the Astronomical Journal in May, but Georgia Tech shared more information this week.
The team saysa more distant but potentially habitable exoplanet also has a stable slope.
Earth's tilt is partially stabilized by other planets and our only big moon, something that Mars lacks. It is not yet clear what contributes to keeping the propensity of the two exoplanets stable, or whether they need help at all.
"We do not know if they have moons, but our calculations show that even without satellites the spin axes of Kepler-186f and 62f would have remained constant over tens of millions of years," explains Li.
There still is not enough information to say for sure that every planet has liquid water or life, but over the years, both seem to be worth a closer look.
Just when we get that look, there's a bit in the air right now. The NASA Next Generation Observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope. It is currently planned to explode in early 2021, so we can begin to get a better idea of what a really looks like within five years.
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