These 2 exoplanets might have seasons and stable climates | 7/9/2018 | Paul Scott Anderson
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Artist’s concept of Kepler-186f, the 1st of 2 studied planets now thought to have seasons and a stable climate. Image via NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle.

We sometimes hear the term Earth-like in describing exoplanets that might be similar to our own world. The terms Earth-like or Earth analog conjure up visions of alien oceans and continents, teeming with life. But how similar to Earth might such distant worlds really be? We still don’t know the answer to that question yet, but a new research study – announced by the Georgia Institute of Technology on June 28, 2018 – shows that there might indeed be some alien worlds that are quite similar to Earth in terms of their seasons and stable climates.

Study - Exoplanets - Size - Earth - Earth

The study focuses on two known exoplanets, one about the same size as Earth and the other a super-Earth (larger than Earth but smaller than the gas giants Uranus or Neptune). The researchers found evidence that both planets likely have seasons and stable climates, just as Earth does. Kepler-186f is less than 10 percent larger then Earth, 500 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus the Swan. It is one of five known planets in that planetary system and orbits within the habitable zone, even though its host star is a red dwarf. Kepler-62f is about 40 percent larger than Earth, 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Lyra the Harp.

The research team, led by Georgia Tech astronomer Gongjie Li and graduate student Yutong Shan from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, used computer simulations to determine the axial tilt of each planet. The results indicated that the axial tilts of both planets are stable, like Earth’s, meaning that the planets would experience regular seasons and stable climates. That is good news in terms of how habitable the planets may be, although there are other...
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