NASA Discovered 10 Planets That Might Have Life

Pablo Tucker
June 22, 2017

NASA just announced a haul of 219 newly discovered potential planets outside our solar system, including 10 that it's calling "Earth-like".

The announcement was made during a briefing at the Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, as members of NASA's Kepler program revealed the latest results of their planet-hunting effort.

"It's the closest so far", said NASA of the discovery, in terms of finding planets with the potential to home us.

The Kepler spacecraft was launched in 2009.

NASA say this is the most "comprehensive and detailed catalog" of candidate exoplanets - which are planets outside our solar system - in Kepler's first four years of data.

The discovery of 219 new "candidates" for planets takes the total number of such bodies in our galaxy up to 4,034.

The presence of liquid water on these "rocky" Earth-like planets is seen as a key ingredient required for the existence of life.

Few planets were found between those groupings.

The planets are also different in size and composition. Several of these planets orbit G dwarfs - the same species of star as the sun.

This zone is the range of distance from a star, where liquid water could form on the surface.

Susan Thompson, a research scientist at the SETI (signs of extra-terrestrial life) Institute said, "This carefully measured catalog is the foundation for directly answering one of the astronomy's most compelling questions - how many planets like our Earth are in the galaxy?"

"I, for one, am ecstatic", she said at a news conference Monday. After further analysis, they discovered that the smaller worlds the Kepler telescope detected fall into two distinct groups: rocky planets about 1.75 times larger than our own ("super-Earths"), and gaseous "mini-Neptunes" that are two to three times bigger than Earth.

The population of exoplanets detected by the Kepler mission (yellow dots) compared to those detected by other surveys using various methods: radial velocity (light blue dots), transit (pink dots), imaging (green dots), microlensing (dark blue dots), and pulsar timing (red dots).

"Finding two distinct groups of exoplanets is like discovering mammals and lizards make up distinct branches of a family tree", Fulton added.

"It implies that Earth-size planets in the habitable zone around sun-like stars are not rare", Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, who was not part of the work, told the Associated Press news agency in an email.

Kepler isn't the only way astronomers have found exoplanets and even potentially habitable ones.

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