Astronomers announced Thursday that they have discovered a planet most similar to earth orbiting a star 500 lightyears away, according to the New York Times.
The planet, Kepler 186f, is larger and colder than earth, but its temperatures lie within the zone that could allow for liquid and therefore life. Scientists can only speculate about this, however, because the star is so far away.
“It’s Earth size,” Elisa Quintana, the lead author of the paper on the planet in the journal Science, told the Times. “It’s in the habitable zone. So we now know these planets do exist.”
— NASA Kepler (@NASAKepler) April 17, 2014
Because the planet is smaller and colder than Earth, describing it as a twin may not be apt, according to Thomas Barclay, another scientist who helped discover Kepler 186f.
“Perhaps it’s more of an Earth cousin than an Earth twin,” he said.
Scientists say that Kepler 186f may be made of the same material as Earth and also may have a similar strength of gravity.
Last year, scientists discovered two planets in the habitable zone orbiting a different star, but because of their size they may be more like Neptune than Earth.