NASA discovers 10 new Earth-size exoplanets

20 June, 2017, 00:49 | Author: Archie Newman

That group includes almost 50 near-Earth size planets in the habitable zone, with 30 verified.

NASA says its planet-hunting telescope has found 10 new planets outside our solar system that are likely the right size and temperature to potentially have life on them.

The discoveries bring the total number of suspected exoplanets - planets outside our solar system - found by the Kepler space telescope to more than 4,000.

The Kepler mission team released a survey of 219 potential exoplanets - planets outside of our solar system - that had been detected by the space observatory launched in 2009 to scan the Milky Way galaxy. It's also the final catalog from the spacecraft's view of the patch of sky in the Cygnus constellation.

So far, its has identified 4,034 planet candidates, 2,335 of which have been verified as exoplanets.

The Kepler telescope detects the presence of planets by registering minuscule drops in a star's brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it, a movement known as a transit.

The researchers also found that rocky planets are often up to 75% larger than Earth, caused by these worlds consuming a small amount of hydrogen and helium that makes them balloon in size.

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Speaking about the discovery Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington said: "Answering the question "are we alone" is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal".

The announcement came at a news conference Monday at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View. K2, which has found over 100 different exoplanets so far, was started as a way to give the telescope a second life after Kepler suffered multiple mission-threatening technological setbacks.

The final catalog of planet candidates will help researchers discover how many planets in the galaxy are Earth-like. Instead of directly spotting individual planets and identifying them with something like high-powered optics, Kepler watches for "transits".

The latest batch of over 200 planets can be separated into two distinct groups - Earth-size planets and gaseous planets smaller than Neptune.

This is the eighth release of the Kepler candidate catalog, gathered by reprocessing the entire set of data from Kepler's observations during the first four years of its primary mission. "We can imagine the day where we actually take direct images of planets like the Earth in the habitable zone of sun-like stars". Earth-sized planets are of particular interest because they can teach us about how our own planet formed, and because there's a small chance they could harbor life.

KOI-7711, an unconfirmed exoplanet at this time, appears to be our best candidate for an Earth-like alien world.

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.

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