Magazine article Science News

Kepler Finds 554 Potential Planets: Data Dive Adds Eight Worlds That Might Be Able to Host Life

Magazine article Science News

Kepler Finds 554 Potential Planets: Data Dive Adds Eight Worlds That Might Be Able to Host Life

Article excerpt

The Kepler space telescope has added 554 planet candidates to the growing list of worlds beyond the solar system, astronomers announced January 6. In addition, Kepler researchers have confirmed another eight worlds with the potential for hosting liquid water.

The data bring Kepler's total number of planet candidates to 4,175, including more than 800 with diameters roughly the size of Earth's. Among these far-off locales are a few worlds that might not be too different from home.

"These are the closest analogs to the Earth-sun system to date," said Fergal Mullally, an astronomer at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. One such candidate is roughly 1.3 times as wide as Earth and takes just over a year to orbit a star with a temperature similar to the sun's. The planet orbits within the star's habitable zone, where temperatures may allow for liquid water.

Researchers found the new candidates while analyzing Kepler's final year of data. From 2009 to 2013, the planet hunter stared at more than 150,000 stars in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra, looking for the silhouettes of planets passing, or transiting, in front of their host stars (SN: 12/27/14, p. 20). Until now, Kepler had predominantly found planets with relatively short orbits, worlds that have transited often enough to be considered likely candidates. With the additional year of data, researchers can finally build a convincing case for Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones around sunlike stars, where transits may happen only once a year. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.