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Earth-Like Planet Discovered—Kepler-186F. Is This Where All the ETs Hang Out?

In earlier blog posts, we discussed the Fermi Paradox. The Paradox being—the apparent size and age of the universe suggests that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist, but there is a lack of observational evidence to support such a conclusion. Italian-American Physicist Enrico Fermi asked the question: Where are they? They meaning extraterrestrials.



The diagram compares the planets of our inner solar system to Kepler-186, a five-planet star system about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The five planets of Kepler-186 orbit an M dwarf, a star that is is half the size and mass of the sun.
Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

The Short of It

At about 490 light years away, using NASA’s Kepler space telescope, astronomers discovered Kepler-186F, the first planet with a radius similar to Earth’s in what is referred to as the “habitable zone.” 

The Long of It

(ProbeNote: “Habitable zoneor “Goldilocks zone”—the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet.)

(ProbeNoteKepler-186F is an exoplanet, meaning it orbits a star other than the sun. It orbits the red dwarf star, Kepler-186.)

Planets previously found in the habitable zone are 40% larger than earth, which makes understanding their make-up more of a challenge, says NASA.

Finding Kepler-186F brings us one step closer to our quest to find other planets like ours. But authors of the report warn that Kepler-186F should be considered a cousin not a twin to Earth. 

Elisa Quintana—lead author of the Kepler-186F paper published in the journal Science, and research scientist at the SETI Institute—said, We know of just one planet where life exists—Earth. When we search for life outside our solar system we focus on finding planets with characteristics that mimic that of Earth.” 

Kepler-186F orbits its star once every 130 days and receives only a third of the amount of energy that we do from our sun. At its brightest, the star is only as bright as ours an hour before sun down. This places Kepler-186F on the outer edges of a habitable zone.

Thomas Barclay, research scientist at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute at Ames, and co-author of the paper warned that being in the habitable zone doesn’t mean it is habitable and says that temperatures on the planet depend on its atmosphere. 

 Kepler-186F resides in the Kepler-186 system, in the constellation Cygnus. Four other companion planets are also located in this system and orbit a star half the size and mass of our sun. Their star is classified as a M dwarf, or red dwarf. This type of star makes up 70% of the stars in the Milky-Way.
 “M dwarfs are the most numerous stars,” said Quintana. “The first signs of other life in the galaxy may well come from planets orbiting a M dwarf.”

The other planets in this system are: Kepler-186b, Kepler-186c, Kepler-186d, and Kepler-186e. These planets orbit their sun every four, seven, 13, and 22 days, respectively, making them too hot for life as we know it.


I watched the movie Interstellar over the weekend in which a former NASA pilot is sent in search of an inhabitable planet because the people on Earth are out of food. This puts into perspective the need we earthlings have to search out other viable planets just in case. 

Two questions have evolved from our research today:
  1. If we are lucky enough to find another planet such as Earth, would we find life and what kind? 
  2. Kepler-186F is 490 light years away. How are we going to get there?
Just imagining Kepler-186F and it’s darkness, possible coldness, brings animals of the deep to mind. Creatures who attract their prey with bioluminescence or can detect the fight/flight response in the brain of their prey. An intelligent virus might also be a life form found on an Earth-like planet. 

As far as getting there, to date I’m not sure we have an efficient means of space travel. In Interstellar, they traveled using black holes. 

Both questions merit further investigation and will be the subjects of future Monday blog posts. Hope to see you there. 

What do you think?

What type of life might we find on Kepler-186F? How will we get there without it taking us millions of years?

Clara Bush
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4 replies on “Earth-Like Planet Discovered—Kepler-186F. Is This Where All the ETs Hang Out?”

Wonderful site you have here but I was curious if you knew of any forums that cover the
same topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be a part
of community where I can get responses from other knowledgeable people that
share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
Appreciate it!

Gosh, thank you TM for visiting and your comment. You pose a great question. I research many different sources in my efforts to find all the facts and dig deeply to give my readers the most accurate information I can find. Most of my sources are other websites, the best being NASA

NASA offers some discussions through social media. Also, Google+ offers several NASA communities and several science communities.
Below are just a sampling of what is available on Google+.

Hope this helps. If I run across other forums/discussion groups, I will pass them along to you. Hope you find the time to visit again.

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Hi Cliff,

Thank you so much for the kind comments and stopping by. Gosh that’s uplifting to this blurry-eyed blogger. I’ll look forward to your return and more feedback. Please always let me know the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m striving to make it the very best I can. Your comments help me to accomplish this. Feel free to suggest topics you’d be interested in reading. I’ll do the research and let you know what I find. Thanks again. —Clara

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