Nasa discovers 10 new 'rocky' planets like Earth

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20 June, 2017

NASA's Kepler space telescope team has released a mission catalog of planet candidates that introduces 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth size and orbiting in their star's habitable zone, which is the range of distance from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet.

According to the scientists, over 2300 planets spotted during the Kepler & K2 missions have been confirmed so far, including 50 terrestrial-sized planets that lie in the "Goldilocks Zone" of their star.

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?"

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

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

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"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. 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.

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.

One research group took advantage of the Kepler data to make precise measurements of thousands of planets, revealing two distinct groups of small planets. This now-complete catalog will help astronomers assess just how common Earth-like planets are in our galaxy overall.

Exoplanets are planets that orbit a star outside of the solar system. That planet is situated around the closest star. "It's unbelievable the things that Kepler has found", Thompson said. "This number could have been very, very small, and I for one am ecstatic that we found 50 potentially habitable worlds orbiting nearby stars". With the launch of our Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in 2018, we're going to search for planets nearest the sun and measure the composition of their atmospheres.

Some exoplanets closely resemble Earth and are a few of the best places to look for alien life. 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. "It's the closest to Earth in size and orbit", said Mullally, "but there is still a lot we don't know about this planet". "We can imagine the day where we actually take direct images of planets like the Earth in the habitable zone of sun-like stars".


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