|Kepler-186f, shown in this artist’s concept, is the first Earth-sized planet discovered in its star’s habitable zone. Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech|
From a comic book nerd perspective, it's neat they found a planet in the possible "Goldilocks habitable zone." It is however, 500 light years away, meaning that even if we had rocket ships that could get to 99.9999% of c (speed of light), it would take several human lifetimes to get there. If we had the propulsion systems of SyFy lore, the important point would be the "when" in its planetary development we arrive - dinosaurs or primitive hominoids - and whether we'd treat them like H.G. Wells' Martians in "War of the Worlds" (he gleaned from the real events of the British crown's expansion and the subjugation of Aborigines) or a more contemporary comparison - Native Americans. A prime directive assumes we evolve beyond our current brutality.
Exoplanets are fun and all, but those hot Jupiters and super Neptunes and such are kind of beside the point. Everyone knows the real search is for a planet like ours: rocky, smallish, and capable of hosting liquid water. And now scientists have found one, named Kepler-186f — an Earth-sized planet in its star’s habitable zone, the area where conditions aren’t too hot or too cold, but just right, for liquid water to be possible.
The planet orbits a star about 500 light-years away called Kepler-186 and was discovered by the Kepler telescope (and then confirmed at the Keck and Gemini Observatories). The discovery technically includes four other exoplanets found around the star, but Kepler-186f is the only one in the habitable zone. Scientists found them all using the “transit method,” which is just basically looking at stars and waiting for planets to pass in front, dimming the star’s light a little bit.
Discovery: Possibly Habitable Earth-Sized Planet Discovered, Bill Andrews