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. In its four years in service, the Kepler space telescope has identified 4,034 new…
NASA reports Monday, June 19 that its Kepler telescope has identified 219 new planet candidates which includes 10 Earth-sized ones.
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. In its four years in service, the Kepler space telescope has identified 4,034 new planet candidates with more than half of those being confirmed as exoplanets.
Exoplanets are planets that orbit a star outside of the solar system.
These findings include 50 near-Earth sized planets in all, in which 30 of them have been verified.
“Additionally, results using Kepler data suggest two distinct size groupings of small planets. Both results have significant implications for the search for life, ” NASA reports.
The Kepler telescope was launched in 2009 as the first NASA mission fully capable of finding Earth-sized planets in or near a habitable zone. Space.com reports that the telescope stars at a single patch of sky looking for “alien planets.”
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?”
“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, ” Mario Perez, Kepler program scientist, said in the release.
“Understanding their frequency in the galaxy will help inform the design of future NASA missions to directly image another Earth.”
In February, NASA announced the discovery of seven new planets that “could have liquid water — key to life as we know it — under the right atmospheric conditions.” The Spitzer Space Telescope found seven Earth-sized planets around a single star, which set a new NASA discovery record for the largest solar system around a single star.
NASA said that the Spitzer, Hubble and Kepler will continue to conduct follow-up studies. The space administration’s James Webb Space Telescope will launch in 2018, which will be able to “detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet’s atmosphere.”