10 new planets that could have life discovered

Nettie James
June 20, 2017

Scientists with NASA's Kepler mission announced on Monday that they have now completed the catalogue of the telescope's original four-year campaign of observations.

The Kepler team has apparently identified 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are roughly Earth-size and within their star's habitable zone, the region that could support liquid water and possibly life.

So to date, Kepler has now found 4,034 planet candidates, 2,335 of which have been verified as exoplanets.

Kepler discovers new planets by observing the minuscule drop in brightness that occurs when a planet passes in front of its star.

Perez also said that means that "we are probably not alone" because four years of data show how common Earth-like planets can be. The Spitzer Space Telescope found seven Earth-sized planets around a single star, which set a new NASA discovery record for the largest solar system around a single star.

"It implies that Earth-size planets in the habitable zone around sun-like stars are not rare", Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, who was not part of the work, said in an email. But those 10 were joined by an additional 209 more garden-variety planets that are unlikely to be hospitable to life because they are too gassy, too hot, too cold or otherwise unlike the only known planet to host life: Earth. 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.

This is the eighth release of information from the Kepler team, which is managed out of Ames for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

"This carefully-measured catalog is the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy's most compelling questions - how many planets like our Earth are in the galaxy?" said Susan Thompson, Kepler research scientist for the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and lead author of the catalog study. In the mid-2020s, we have our sights on taking a picture of small planets like Earth with our Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

Until KOI-7711 is verified and earns an official Kepler planet name - a process that requires a different telescope (usually ground-based) to observe it transiting - this is all speculation.

It has enough fuel to keep identifying candidates until summer 2018 and is helping bridge the gap between Kepler and TESS by identifying targets for the James Webb Space Telescope to observe.

It seems that nature commonly makes rocky planets up to about 75 percent bigger than Earth.

NASA said that the Spitzer, Hubble and Kepler will continue to conduct follow-up studies.

Better knowledge of how to find planets like our own will help scientists sift through this final catalog of data from Kepler's original mission.

To celebrate, NASA has launched "Kepler Exoplanet Week" from June 17 through June 23, with events scheduled across the Bay Area.

Other reports by Insurance News

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