Key Takeaways

  1. Astronomers have discovered a planet, Kepler-438 b, located 470 light-years away, which closely resembles Earth.
  2. Kepler-438 b is only 12% larger than Earth and has a similarity index of 0.9, making it the most Earth-like exoplanet discovered so far.
  3. The planet is situated in the habitable zone of its star, receiving sufficient light and heat to support liquid water on its surface.
  4. Despite its similarities to Earth, Kepler-438 b faces challenges due to its native star’s high activity, resulting in frequent powerful flashes that could damage its atmosphere.
  5. If the planet managed to maintain a strong magnetic field, it could potentially retain its atmosphere and support primitive life forms.

Astronomers have made an exciting discovery in their quest for extraterrestrial life—a planet that closely resembles Earth. Kepler-438 b, located a staggering 470 light-years away, has emerged as a potential candidate for habitability. Discovered in 2015, this distant world is situated near the star Kepler-438 within the constellation Lyra. The star itself is a solitary red dwarf with a mass of 0.54 times that of our Sun and a radius of 0.52 solar units.

Also Read: The 10 most Earth-like exoplanets

Kepler-438 b is remarkably similar to Earth, measuring just 12% larger in size. It boasts a similarity index of 0.9, ranking it as the most Earth-like exoplanet known to date. Furthermore, this intriguing planet orbits within the habitable zone of its star, ensuring it receives sufficient light and warmth for the existence of liquid water on its surface. Despite its proximity to the star, which might raise concerns about its habitability, red dwarfs like Kepler-438 emit less heat and light than our Sun.

However, the planet’s striking resemblance to Earth does not guarantee its habitability. Researchers have discovered that the native star, Kepler-438, is a type of variable star that experiences periodic intense flashes. These eruptions, occurring every few hundred days, release an astonishing amount of energy—10 times more powerful than the solar index, equivalent to 100 billion megatons of TNT. Consequently, Kepler-438 b is subjected to high levels of radiation, leading to the loss of its atmospheric layer and diminishing prospects for life to emerge.

Nonetheless, scientists posit that if Kepler-438 b managed to maintain a robust magnetic field, it could potentially retain its atmosphere and harbor primitive life forms within its water bodies. Despite the extreme conditions, such as a temperature rise to 60°C, life on Earth has demonstrated resilience in similar environments. However, the ultimate question of habitability for this “second Earth” remains unanswered, emphasizing the importance of considering both planetary characteristics and the actions of the host star when searching for potential life beyond our own planet.

Also: Second Earth-sized World Found in System’s Habitable Zone

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