Scientists say Earth-sized planet could sustain life

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MENOMONIE, Wis (WEAU)-- The possibility of life on an Earth-sized planet has astronomers buzzing.

NASA announced Friday that it found an Earth-like plant in a solar system 500 light-years away.

“We only have one data point and that is the Earth at the present time but we are getting much closer to being able to identify signatures that could detect life on another planet, astronomer Alan Scott said.

Scott, a professor at UW-Stout, says planet Kepler 186F is just one of dozens of Earth-like planets identified by a NASA space telescope. But he says Kepler 186F is unique because it orbits in what scientists consider the ‘habitable zone.’

Scott says the ‘habitable zone’ means the range of distance the planet orbits it’s sun could allow for the planet to have liquid water on its surface.

“It’s in the farther away part of the zone. So a large portion of this planet’s surface would be much like the conditions in the movie Frozen, the waters going to be frozen. But a large portion is believed to have liquid water,” said Scott.

Kepler 186F is being called 'Earth's cousin' because its orbit is faster and its sun much smaller.

Scott says Kepler 186F is one of five planets that orbit a Red Dwarf Star. He says while the atmosphere is believed to be different. The data could show it has a pocket of atmospheric oxygen.

"Many believe it would be hard to produce this with some inorganic non- biological activity,” said Scott.

But stepping foot on Kepler 186F to find out just who or what may live there is near impossible. Scott says even if you traveled at the speed of the International Space Station, 15,000 miles per hour, it would take 23 million years to get there.

NASA is expected to release more data about Kepler 186F and other planets its space telescope studied.