Science

10 new planets that could have life discovered

10 new planets that could have life discovered

Ten new planets outside our solar system that are likely the right size and temperature to potentially support life on them have been found by NASA's planet-hunting telescope. 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.

The U.S. space agency says that these 10 new candidates are in the correct range of their stars where water could form on the surface of the more rocky planets.

"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", Dr. Mario Perez, a scientist on NASA's Kepler program, said in the press statement.

Scientists agreed that this is a boost in the hope for life elsewhere. NASA announced the discover of 550 rocky planets in May, nine of which orbited their stars' "Goldilocks Zones" and were of a similar size to Earth.

NASA has found new evidence of 219 planets outside our Solar System.




With Monday's addition of planets, the original Kepler mission now has resulted in the identificatoin of 4,043 planet candidates. The presence of liquid water means that a planet could potentially develop life, or one day host a human colony.

The mission ran into technical problems in 2013 when mechanisms used to turn the spacecraft failed but the telescope has continued searching for potentially habitable planets as part of its K2 project. The team found a clean division in the sizes of rocky, Earth-size planets and gaseous planets smaller than Neptune.

NASA says the telescope is able to accomplish this by detecting a drop in a star's brightness, which happens when a planet passes in front of it. Susan Thompson, Kepler research scientist, said in the release that the telescope's catalog will serve as a foundation to answer the question of "how many planets like our Earth are in the galaxy?" That planet is situated around the closest star.

Since launching in 2009, Kepler has been watching more than 200,000 stars in one part of the sky to determine exoplanet candidates, based on the slight dimming of light emitted by stars when potential planets pass across them. Of roughly 50 near-Earth size habitable zone candidates detected by Kepler, more than 30 have been verified. The talk among scientists at a Kepler conference in California this weekend is that it is closer to 60 percent, he said. "That's great", said Courtney Dressing, a NASA Sagan Fellow at the California Institute of Technology. "I, for one, am ecstatic". "It's wonderful the things that Kepler has found, it has shown us these terrestrial worlds, and we still have all this work to do to understand how common Earths are in the galaxy".

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