NASA telescope finds 10 more planets that could have life

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

This new data from the Kepler mission also suggest that within the "family tree" of exoplanets found, the smaller ones fall into two distinct sizes: Earth-like planets and super-Earths, and gaseous mini-Neptunes.

The search for Earth-like planets is in full swing as the team using the Kepler spacecraft to search distant stars for proof of orbiting planets has revealed hundreds of new candidates. Of roughly 50 near-Earth size habitable zone candidates detected by Kepler, more than 30 have been verified. It was like, 'Junk, junk, variable star - ooh, planet!' It would be like that.

Data on the 10 new planets is publicly available in NASA's Exoplanet Archive. Kepler has been surveying the Cygnus constellation since 2009, and during that time scientists have found more than 5,000 potential exoplanets in an area of the sky about 3,000 light-years away from Earth. One of those groupings are planets like Neptune that have no surface, or lie under a deep atmosphere, which is unlikely to support life.

With the final catalog of planetary candidates from Kepler's original mission released, NASA will now focus on the "K2" mission, which began in 2014. If it is confirmed, though, it may become the most Earth-like planet in the catalogue, so far. When scientists see this happen, they then study each signal to confirm that it's coming from a planet passing in front of the star and not some other anomaly. 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 has shown us these terrestrial worlds, and we still have all this work to do to really understand how common Earths are in the galaxy". While the catalog from the Kepler mission, the first four years Kepler was in space, will not change after Monday, the catalog from K2 may change and grow in the future.

Although the Kepler mission has yet to fulfill one of its goals, which is determining the fraction of sun-like stars hosting Earth-like planets in our galaxy, these data will help astronomers determine that number in the next few years, the researchers said.

These other missions - such as TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, in 2018 and the James Webb Space Telescope later on - will continue the search for life beyond Earth.

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.

It seems that nature commonly makes rocky planets up to about 75 percent bigger than Earth.

"I'm looking forward to 2030s", said Courtney Dressing, NASA Sagan Fellow.

Related news