How a sunset might look on Earth's new cousin Kepler-186f

NASA confirms the discovery of an Earth-sized planet that may have potential for life, but its sun is dimmer than ours. Here's what an evening stroll on a beach on Kepler-186f might be like.

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A comparison of Earth and Kepler-186f as a cold world with shallow oceans. University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo / NASA

NASA announced Thursday that it has confirmed the first planet beyond our solar system that exists in the habitable zone of its star and is close to the size of Earth, making it the most likely exoplanet yet validated to host life. But the planet, Kepler-186f, orbits an M-class dwarf star and receives only about a third of the energy from its sun that Earth receives from our own beloved fireball.

That means it could be a frozen, Hoth-like world, or it could be more dry and dead like Mars. But if conditions are right and liquid water exists on Kepler-186f, as NASA thinks it might, it could look more like the above conception, a slightly more chilly version of Earth with shallow oceans.

This, naturally begs the question: What does a sunset look like when you get that much less photon love from your neighborhood solar furnace?

Fortunately the folks at the Planetary Habitability Laboratory of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo are much more obsessed with exoplanets than even the Crave crew -- they mocked up the below comparison of a gorgeous Caribbean sunset as it appears on Earth, and how a similar spot might look if it were relocated to Kepler-186f at dusk.

I love this visualization because it really drives home the relevance of an otherwise abstract discovery. Nothing like the notion of a sunset stroll on an alien beach to make you feel even smaller, but perhaps also less alone.

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A Kepler-186f sunset appears dimmer, but the sun is larger. University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo / PHL

 

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