Finding Earth’s Twin.
Everyone knows that Earth will someday be inhabitable. It’s going to be awhile, but someday it’ll happen. I think it’s fairly presumptuous to assume we’ll still be around when it happens, but whatever. The point is that when it happens, whoever is still around is going to need somewhere to go. That drive, plus humanity’s imperialist/exploratory instincts have us constantly searching for Earth’s twin. The headlines around such discoveries are fairly commonplace, but yesterday we might have taken another step forward.
Kepler-186f, named in part for the NASA Kepler satellite that helped find it, is a planet about 500 light years away that scientists put in the “Goldilocks zone" - meaning it’s not too hot, not to cold, and could potentially support water.
But here’s the problem. Finding Earth’s twin is nearly impossible. While it might seem like our abundance of life is an indicator that the whole process is fairly easy, the exact conditions on our planet haven’t been found on any planet besides ours, anywhere ever. Earth-like planets are common, but earth-like doesn’t equate to a place we could pack up and move into. So while Kepler-186f is possibly the closest scientists have ever found to our own planet, questions still abound.
First off, the planet gets less stellar energy than Earth which means it’s cold. How cold? Scientists estimate it’s colder than Mars. They’re also unsure if Kepler-186f suffers from tidal locking - a term that basically means it doesn’t rotate during its orbit. If that’s the case there’d be no day/night cylce; one side of that planet constantly faces its star (which is a red dwarf by the way, which means its cooler and smaller than our sun). To summarize: the climate would be nothing like ours. Scientists are also unsure if life could even survive there in any capacity. Oh, and the “500 lights years away” thing makes a potential move challenging as well.
Sadly, it seems any colonization of an Earth-like exoplanet will remain in the pages of science fiction for now. But it’s still fun to tilt your head up, look into the night sky and wonder. We’ll get there someday.