Kepler-186f is located 500 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle
A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology provides new clues indicating that an exoplanet 500 light-years away is much like Earth. Kepler-186f is the first identified Earth-sized planet outside the solar system orbiting a star in the habitable zone. This means it’s the proper distance from its host star for liquid water to pool on the surface.
The Georgia Tech study used simulations to analyse and identify the exoplanet’s spin axis dynamics. Those dynamics determine how much a planet tilts on its axis and how that tilt angle evolves over time. Axial tilt contributes to seasons and climate because it affects how sunlight strikes the planet’s surface.
The researchers suggest that Kepler-186f’s axial tilt is very stable, much like the Earth, making it likely that it has regular seasons and a stable climate. The Georgia Tech team thinks the same is true for Kepler-62f, a super-Earth-sized planet orbiting around a star about 1,200 light-years away from us.
How important is axial tilt for climate? Large variability in axial tilt could be a key reason why Mars transformed from a watery landscape ...