NASA’s Kepler space telescope has discovered over 200 NEW planet candidates and TEN of them are eerily similar to Earth and could support alien life NASA reveals.
Scientists at NASA say that they planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has discovered 10 brand new planets outside of our solar system that most likely have the right size and temperature to potentially have life already developed on their surface, hinting that we may not be alone in the universe after all.
The newly-found exoplanets orbit in the so-called “habitable zone” of their star, at a distance in which water may exist in liquid state—meeting one of the main conditions for life to develop on their surface.
Since it was launched in 2009, the telescope has found a total of 4,034 potential planets, of which 2,335 are verified exoplanets. In turn, 50 of them are similar to the Earth and are candidates to harbor life.
“Are we alone? Maybe Kepler today has told us indirectly, although we need confirmation, that we are probably not alone,” said Mario Perez, Kepler program scientist in the Astrophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in a press briefing.
As reported by NASA, the Kepler space telescope hunts for planets by detecting the minuscule drop in a star’s brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it, called a transit.
Astronomers firmly believe this discovery is a HUGE boost in the hope of finding alien life elsewhere in the universe.
“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.”
“Understanding their frequency in the galaxy will help inform the design of future NASA missions to directly image another Earth,” added Perez.
According to astronomers, one of the planets discovered, dubbed as KOI 7711—is the closest planet to Earth in terms of size and the energy it receives from its star, which dictates temperatures, and eventually the existence or not of water on the surface.
“It receives just about the same amount of energy as we do from our sun, and is only slightly larger than Earth, at 1.3 Earth-radii,” explained Susan Thompson, Kepler research scientist for the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and lead author of the catalog study.
As reported by the Daily Mail, in addition to the new exoplanet candidates, the researchers also identified a notable distinction between groupings of small planets, which could help guide the search for alien life.
“This carefully-measured catalog is the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy’s most compelling questions – how many planets like our Earth are in the galaxy?” said Thompson.
One research group took advantage of the Kepler data to make precise measurements of thousands of planets, revealing two distinct groups of small planets. The team found a clean division in the sizes of rocky, Earth-size planets and gaseous planets smaller than Neptune. Few planets were found between those groupings, reports NASA.
It seems that nature commonly makes rocky planets up to about 75 percent bigger than Earth. 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.