NASA's Kepler mission finds 10 Earth-size exoplanets, 209 others

23 Juin, 2017, 12:39 | Author: Come Portier
  • NASA's Kepler mission finds 10 Earth-size exoplanets, 209 others

To find out more about the Kepler space telescope activities, visit the NASA Kepler website. But Kepler's latest haul - which includes a planet that is only slightly larger than Earth and receives the same amount of energy from its sun as Earth - is the latest triumph for Kepler, which has spotted roughly 80% of the planets orbiting stars other than our sun.

Almost all the planet candidates are in between the sizes of Earth and Neptune. Of these, 49 fit squarely into their star's "habitable zone", that Goldilocks region where liquid water can pool on the surface and life may be able to thrive. Ten of them are nearly the same size as Earth and are the right temperature to have liquid, pooling water on their surface. It's an immensely impressive list, especially when you consider that Kepler is discovering these planets by looking for tiny fluctuations in light coming from stars as these planets orbit around them - you can see an example of those measurements in the video posted below.

The newest Kepler catalog draws out 219 new planetary candidates and infers that 10 of them may be habitable - doubling the number of planetary candidates in the habitable zone of their star.

The 219 new planet candidates are part of the more than 4,000 planet candidates and 2,300 confirmed planets Kepler has identified to date.

"Finding two distinct groups of exoplanets is like discovering mammals and lizards make up distinct branches of a family tree", he told reporters Monday.

Mario Perez, Kepler program scientist in the Astrophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said the new discovery means that "we are probably not alone" because four years of data show how common Earth-like planets can be.

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This sharpens the dividing line between potentially habitable planets and those that are inhospitable to life as we know it, the researchers said.

Nasa hopes the catalogue, which is now complete with data from Kepler's first mission conducted back in 2012, will help us in our search for alien life.

NASA is categorising the two "types" as "super-Earths" and "mini-Neptunes". The new catalog release brings its total catch up to 4,034 potential planets, of which 2,335 are verified exoplanets and almost 50 are near-Earth size habitable zone candidates.

For more information about Kepler Exoplanet Week, go to nasa.gov/kepler/exoplanetweek. Dubbed a "transit", the minuscule drop in brightness takes place when a planet crosses in front of its host star.

"It feels like a bit like the end of an era, but actually, I see it as a new beginning", Thompson said.

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