The latest findings announced by scientists on June 19 at NASA's Ames Research Center said Kepler's search has found 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth size and in the habitable zone of their star. Among these hundreds of planets, about 550 of them appear to be rocky planets similar to Earth, and a precious 9 orbit their stars at just the right distance to have liquid water on their surface-meaning that they might support life.
After four years of searching, the Kepler telescope has detected a total of 49 planets in the Goldilocks zone. 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.
Outside scientists agreed that this is a boost in the hope for life elsewhere.
So far, these planets, which scientists refer to as "super-Earths" and "mini-Neptunes", have not been found in Earth's solar system, though scientists are on the hunt for a potential ninth planet far beyond Pluto.
Today, researchers from NASA's Kepler space telescope team announced we might get to bring our garbage party to another planet-perhaps a bunch of them. 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.
This is the eighth release of the Kepler candidate catalog, gathered by reprocessing the entire set of data from Kepler's observations during the first four years of its primary mission.
Between 2009 and 2013, Kepler stared at the same patch of sky in the Cygnus constellation and measured the brightness of some 200,000 stars.
The 219 new planet candidates are part of the more than 4,000 planet candidates and 2,300 confirmed planets Kepler has identified to date. That number includes about 50 worlds that may be about the same size and temperature as Earth. "KOI" stands for "Kepler object of interest". The others a rocky in nature like Earth, but up to 75 percent bigger.
This isn't the first time the space agency has identified potentially inhabitable exoplanets.
With Monday's addition of planets, the original Kepler mission now has resulted in the identificatoin of 4,043 planet candidates. "That's great", said Courtney Dressing, a NASA Sagan Fellow at the California Institute of Technology.
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