As far as our knowledge of the cosmos goes, the Earth indeed seems like an oasis surrounded in all directions by barren worlds devoid of anything even remotely resembling life as we have known it. However, scientists are increasingly finding the evidence that there could be, in fact, many such cases all around us, albeit separated by incomprehensible distances.
In a new discovery, astronomers using the Kepler space observatory have detected as many as 219 possible new exoplanets in our own Milky Way galaxies. 10 of those are small, rocky worlds likely to be located in the habitable zones of their respective host stars.
These happen to be the final additions to the ever-expanding catalog of exoplanets compiled in the phase-1 of the Kepler mission. During this period, the famed space telescope completed scanning as many as 200,000 stars in the Cygnus constellation in a bid to find interesting worlds beyond our own for further study.
The official catalog, as of today, contains a total of 4,034 candidates. 49 of these are expected to be located squarely in their star’s so-called Goldilocks Zone where the average surface temperature is just right enough for water to exist in liquid form — like we have here on Earth. Note that while this could be an important criterion for life as we know it to exist, it certainly isn’t the only one.
While the 10 newly discovered rocky worlds seem to be in the habitable zone of their stars, Kepler doesn’t have the ability to predict the existence of an atmosphere around these planets. So, in a way there were aliens far far away looking at our Solar System using a device similar to the Kepler space observatory, all they would see is three rocky worlds orbiting the Sun: Venus, Earth, and Mars. Aside from making wild guesses, they wouldn’t have the slightest of hint that the second of these planets, i.e. Earth, flaunts a rich atmosphere around it while hosting liquid water on the surface, explains Kepler research scientist Susan Thompson.
Soon more details will emerge about these planets as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the Hubble successor James Webb Space Telescope take charge in the skies. Worth noting, the James Webb Space Telescope has been designed to detect atmosphere on other planets.