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

Joan Terry
June 20, 2017

The 10 Goldilocks planets are part of 219 new candidate planets that Nasa announced as part of the final batch of planets discovered in the main mission since the telescope was launched in 2009.

As of next year, NASA will continue its scan of the galaxy using Kepler's successor, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, which will spend two years observing the 200,000 brightest nearby stars for Earth-like worlds. Ten of the new candidates are Earth-like in size and orbiting within the habitable zone of their host star, meaning they're theoretically able to host liquid water on their surface.

Seven of the 10 newfound Earth-size planets circle stars that are just like ours, not cool dwarf ones that require a planet be quite close to its star for the right temperature.

"The Kepler data set is unique, as it is the only one containing a population of these near-Earth analogs: planets with roughly the same size and orbit as Earth", he said.

Objects of interest identified by NASA's Kepler space telescope are eventually called "planet candidates" after further vetting.

The scientists found that the newly discovered planets tended to fall into two distinct categories - smaller, rocky planets that are usually around 75 percent bigger than Earth, and much larger, gaseous planets similar in size to Neptune. "Understanding their frequency in the Milky Way will help design future NASA missions to find another Earth", said Mario Perez, Astrophysics Division of the Space Agency, Scientific Leader of the Kepler Mission.

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

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One of the research groups was able, thanks to the data provided by Kepler, to make precise measurements of thousands of planets.

This is the final catalog detailing exoplanet candidates and confirmations from Kepler's survey taken during the first four years observing part of the constellation Cygnus. It has shown us these terrestrial worlds, and we still have all of this work to do to really understand how common Earths are in the galaxy. Like other missions that have outlived their expected lifespan, Kepler broadened its search in 2014 to include other parts of our galaxy and has been taking in data ever since.

With these latest Kepler discoveries, Nasa publishes the most complete and detailed version of the catalog of exoplanets found from data collected during four years of observations of this telescope.

It was created to survey part of the galaxy to see how frequent planets are and how frequent Earth-size and potentially habitable planets are. It detects planets as they pass in front of their star whose light they momentarily dim.

Scientists also hope the James Webb Space telescope, which will replace the Hubble telescope in 2018, will be able to detect the molecular make-up of atmospheres of exoplanets, including the possibility of finding signatures of potential life forms.

Nasa said several of the ten new potentially habitable planets circle stars similar in size to our sun.

Other reports by BadHub

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