NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft Detects 219 Exoplanet Candidates, Including 10 ‘Earth-Like’ Worlds

NASA’s Kepler mission has added 219 new planets – 10 potentially temperate, rocky and habitable candidates like Earth – into its list of worlds beyond our solar system.

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Among the latest additions, KOI 7711.01 (Kepler Object of Interest) has been described as a potential Earth Twin, a rocky world just 30% bigger than our own, orbiting around a G dwarf — the same species of stars as our own sun.

And, what’s even more interesting is the fact that this Earth-like world lies in a region around its star where it gets just the right amount of solar warmth for liquid water to potentially soak its surface.

But, it is still too early to pit KOI 7711.01 as an Earth equivalent. Scientists have been studying this planet but Kepler is incapable of determining whether the exoplanet actually bears an atmosphere or liquid water.

“It gets approximately the same amount of heat that we get from our own star,” says the SETI Institute’s Susan Thompson, part of the team that unveiled these new planets on Monday. But, Thompson cautioned, “there’s a lot we don’t know about this planet. It’s hard to say whether it’s really an Earth twin—we need to know more about its atmosphere, whether there’s water on the planet”.

The Kepler Mission

That said, KOI 7711.01 makes an intriguing part of the eighth and final data release of the Kepler mission.

The space telescope blasted off in 2009 to find habitable planets like Earth in the Milky Way. Then, it spent four years, scanning about 200,000 stars in the Cygnus and Lyra constellations to compile this catalogue. Kepler watched for regular dimming of stars’ light which signalled the presence of planets around them and allowed scientists to determine their size and distance from their respective stars.

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As a result, the space telescope observed 4,034 exoplanet candidates, of which 2,335 have been confirmed to be planets and 50 are in the ‘habitable’ zone – rocky and neatly settled near their stars in life-friendly orbits.

Most of the planets found by Kepler are smaller than Neptune, and Kepler really, truly has opened up our eyes to the existence of these small, terrestrial-size worlds, Thompson says.

Moreover, the compiled catalogue also offers enough data for scientists to put together a census of various otherworldly populations. Thompson noted that they are turning attention away from finding new individual systems toward trying to understand the demographics of the worlds like Earth.

via Tech Times