NASA's Kepler mission finds 10 Earth-size exoplanets, 209 others

Guillermo Lane
June 20, 2017

The exoplanets represented in this newly updated catalogue include all of those detected - candidates and confirmed planets - while Kepler was aimed at the constellation Cygnus, and stared down the length of the Orion Spur, the small arm of the Milky Way Galaxy where Earth's solar system resides. The current catalog of exoplanets released by NASA is comprehensive and it has been prepared during the first four years of data from the space telescope. These planets are also exoplanets although they were discovered by the Spitzer Space Telescope rather than the Kepler telescope.

"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 Susan Thompson, a Kepler research scientist and lead author of the latest study. "It's awesome the things that Kepler has found, it has shown us these terrestrial worlds, and we still have all this work to do to understand how common Earths are in the galaxy".

"Understanding their frequency in the galaxy will help inform the design of future Nasa missions to directly image another Earth". "This has implications in the search for life", Fulton said.

Kepler habitable zone planet candidates, plotted by temperature of star and energy received from its star. "Maybe Kepler today is telling us indirectly. that we are not alone".

Additionally, since it would have a very similar orbit to Earth around a fairly Sun-like star, it would likely rotated, just as Earth does, and not be tidally-locked (with one side always facing the star).

The result: 4,034 exoplanet candidates.

The analysis pushes Kepler's tally to 4,034 planet candidates overall, of which 2,335 have been confirmed through additional observation and analysis. 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.

These planets are usually 1.6 times the size of Earth, with rocky terrain.

So to fix this, the Kepler team simulated their own positive and false signals of planet transits and compared them to the actual data from the mission.

The Kepler catalog reveals that the rocky planets are often about 75 percent larger than Earth, and about around half of these planets end up accumulating the common gases helium and hydrogen, which "swells" their size, transforming them into Neptune-like planets.

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.

Even more remarkable than the sheer number of planets discovered is the method by which Kepler discovered them. "Finding two distinct groups of exoplanets is like discovering mammals and lizards make up distinct branches of a family tree".

Other reports by TheDigitalNewspaper

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