Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

NASA telescope finds 10 more planets that could have life

The habitable zone is the area that's not too close and not too far from a star, and in which a planet might support water, the basis for life on Earth.

It's important to note that NASA's rules for what defines a "planet" are incredibly exacting.

Kepler has now identified 4,034 planet candidates, with 2,335 verified as exoplanets. The final Kepler catalog will serve as the foundation for more study to determine the prevalence and demographics of planets in the galaxy, while the discovery of the two distinct planetary populations shows that about half the planets we know of in the galaxy either have no surface, or lie beneath a deep, crushing atmosphere- an environment unlikely to host life.

The Kepler telescope has added several hundred new candidate exoplanets to its stable of 4034, including 10 that are near-Earth-size, in orbits that would allow liquid water at the surface. But Kepler's latest haul - which includes a planet that is only slightly larger than Earth and receives the same amount of energy from its sun as Earth - is the latest triumph for Kepler, which has spotted roughly 80% of the planets orbiting stars other than our sun. The gravity of a smaller super-Earth may not be strong enough to hold onto hydrogen; if it's close to its star, the hydrogen may get blasted away. And It's an important distinction to make, because Neptune-sized planets are nearly always inhospitable to life as we know it.

Data on the 10 new planets is publicly available in NASA's Exoplanet Archive.

There are now 4,034 planet candidates in the catalog. This is certainly the week for exploring such ideas, however, during the Kepler Science Conference, which runs from June 19-23, at NASA's Ames Research Center in California. Earth-sized planets are of particular interest because they can teach us about how our own planet formed, and because there's a small chance they could harbor life.

"It is interesting that we don't have what appears to be the most common type of planet in the galaxy", Fulton said.

The Kepler mission only looked at one particular part of the sky, so while it only identified a select number of planets and stars even though there are billions more out there. The exoplanet totals announced Monday reflect a final, extraordinarily detailed analysis of data collected over the first four years of Kepler's observations. Researchers are now using the Hubble Space Telescope to determine if these planets had atmosphere.

Kepler continues to search for planets in different regions of space. More than 30 of those have been verified, NASA said.

The Kepler team found that planets which are about 1.75 times the size of Earth and smaller tend to be rocky, while those two- to 3.5 times the size of Earth become gas-shrouded worlds like Neptune.

Like this: