An exoplanet located 500 light years from Earth, known as Kepler 186-f, could be much like our home world, and may even harbor alien life, according to a new study. This alien planet is the first Earth-sized world to be found within the habitable zone from its host star. This is the distance which is neither too close, nor to far, for liquid water to form.
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology developed computer studies to measure the axial tilt of the exoplanet. This tilt is responsible for seasons here on Earth, and the stable nature of our axis provides regular changes between winter and summer.
“Mars is in the habitable zone in our solar system, but its axial tilt has been very unstable — varying from zero to 60 degrees. That instability probably contributed to the decay of the Martian atmosphere and the evaporation of surface water,” said Gongjie Li, assistant professor at Georgia Tech, and co-leader of the study.
By comparison, the axial tilt here on Earth slowly varies between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees every 10,000 years. While gravitation from Mars and Venus could cause the axial tilt of Earth to vary greatly, this effect is moderated by our Moon, resulting in a more stable climate than we might normally have otherwise.
Kepler 186-f is only 10 percent larger than our home world, and its year lasts just 130 Earth days. The density and composition of the planet remains a mystery. Astronomers discovered the world in 2014, and it is now considered to be the most Earth-like of all the 3,700 confirmed exoplanets known to astronomers.
The Georgia Tech investigators also believe another exoplanet, Kepler-62f, also possesses a stable axial tilt, increasing the chances of alien life forming on that world. That planet, roughly 40 percent larger than Earth. is 1,200 light years away from our home world.