NASA telescope finds 10 more planets that could have life

New exoplanets, some that could possibly host life, were discovered by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, researchers announced Monday at a news conference.

"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.

Detected in four separate transit candidates, each around 302 days apart, associated with a star that is slightly smaller and cooler than our Sun, KOI-7711 hasn't been verified as a confirmed exoplanet yet.

The new Kepler analysis also indicates extra-solar planets form in three general sizes, not two as previously thought. The distinction will help scientists home in on potential Earth-like planets and better the odds for finding life. If it is a planet, that Kepler data can be used to determine its mass, size, and orbital period, or how long it takes to go around the star.

Read: A Planet Hotter Than Most Stars?

Below is a plot showing only the small subset of relatively Earth-sized planet candidates.

Kepler planet candidates, plotted by size relative to Earth and length of orbit, which is a function of distance from its star.

This latest batch of planetary discoveries marks the final step in Kepler's observation of the Cygnus constellation.


The eighth catalogue is the most detailed released during the first four years of data gathering by Kepler. "But actually I see it as a new beginning". "It's wonderful the things that Kepler has found", Thompson said. 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.

The findings were presented at a news conference Monday at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. This turned into the K2 mission.

The candidates include 10 newly discovered rocky worlds that are properly distanced from their parent stars for water, if it exists, to pool on their surfaces.

These planets are usually 1.6 times the size of Earth, with rocky terrain.

Kepler performs its mission by gathering extremely stable observations of distant stars, and watches for when the light from those stars dims, due to a solid object (most likely a planet) passing between the telescope and that star.

A follow-up study, described today by astronomer Benjamin Fulton of the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu, fine-tuned the size measurements for some 2000 Kepler planets using the Keck telescopes in Hawaii. That happens during a so-called "transit" - when a planet passes in front of its star. Each star will be observed for 30 days.

One of Kepler's other big surprises was a profusion of planets intermediate in size between Earth and Neptune.

The K2 mission, which began in 2014, is extending Kepler's legacy to new parts of the sky and new fields of study, adding to NASA's "arc of discovery". "We stopped doing it that way", she said during a NASA podcast interview. So while humanity can't take over every planet, there are definitely quite a few that are, in theory, suitable for us to destroy.

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