With all the worldbuilding posts I’ve been writing, this announcement was perfect timing. I’m talking about Kepler-186f, the planet discovered, and since confirmed by two separate telescopes, orbiting a red dwarf star nearly 500 light years away. It’s a bit bigger than the Earth, and it orbits at about a third the distance from its star than Earth does from the Sun. This infograph shows you everything.
This is an incredible discovery, although it was expected eventually. But now we’ve found it, a world very similar to Earth in size and temperature. It’s likely to be able to have liquid water on its surface. As it’s larger than Earth, the higher gravity could hold onto a more dense atmosphere. This would help, as it’s closer to the outer edge of the habitable zone of the star, so some greenhouse effect would be useful.
Of course, more work needs to be done. We don’t actually know anything about the atmosphere or the surface of the planet. We know its radius and mass pretty well, but much more direct observation of its spectrum needs to be made.
I’m curious about when the first science fiction novel will be written about this planet.