NASA telescope finds 10 more planets that could have life

219 new planet candidates

After four years of searching, the Kepler telescope has detected a total of 49 planets in the Goldilocks zone.

The Kepler space telescope closes out its original four-year mission with over 200 new finds, including 10 newfound rocky, potentially life-bearing alien worlds, one of which could end up being a near-twin of Earth.

"Understanding their frequency in the galaxy will help inform the design of future Nasa missions to directly image another Earth". The telescope has studied some 150,000 stars in the Cygnus constellation, a survey which NASA said is now complete.

It also announced 219 new planets.

NASA says several of the 10 new potentially habitable planets circle stars similar in size to our sun.

In February, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope revealed the TRAPPIST-1 system, which features seven Earth-size planets orbiting a single star - three are in the habitable zone.

"Additionally, results using Kepler data suggest two distinct size groupings of small planets".


This sharpens the dividing line between potentially habitable planets and those that are inhospitable to life as we know it, the researchers said. "It's fantastic 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".

With the addition of this latest release, Kepler has now identified 4,034 planet candidates, and 2,335 of them have been confirmed as exoplanets. "Maybe Kepler today is telling us indirectly. that we are not alone". Such planets are harder to spot because they might have made only a few transits across their star during Kepler's 4-year watch.

Until KOI-7711 is verified and earns an official Kepler planet name - a process that requires a different telescope (usually ground-based) to observe it transiting - this is all speculation.

So to fix this, the Kepler team simulated their own positive and false signals of planet transits and compared them to the actual data from the mission.

The latest findings were released at the Fourth Kepler and K2 science conference being held this week at NASA's Ames research center in California.

Typically, exoplanets fall in one of two categories: super-Earths, which have a radius that is 1.5 times that of the Earth, rocky surfaces, and often little to no atmosphere; and those that are like mini-Neptunes, which re about twice the Earth's radius with thick atmospheres and no rocky surface. For reasons scientists don't yet understand, about half of those planets take on a small amount of hydrogen and helium that dramatically swells their size, allowing them to "jump the gap" and join the population closer to Neptune's size.

"We like to think of this study as classifying planets in the same way that biologists identify new species of animals", said Benjamin Fulton, doctoral candidate at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, and lead author of the second study. He likened the discovery to realizing that mammals and reptiles are on separate branches of the evolutionary tree.

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