NASA Discovers 10 More Potentially Habitable Planets

The findings were compiled from data gathered during the first four years of the mission, which scientists processed to determine the size and composition of the planets observed. Within this zone, conditions are just right for liquid water to exist on the surface of the planet. How many planets orbit in the habitable zone?

The Kepler telescope detects the presence of planets by registering minuscule drops in a star's brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it, a movement known as a transit. "As a result, this survey catalog will be the foundation for directly answering one of the astronomy's most compelling questions: How many planets like our Earth are actually in the galaxy?", she further added.

Based on how many habitable-zone planets have already been identified, Caltech astrophysicist Courtney Dressing thinks that number could be sizable. "I, for one, am ecstatic".

The news comes during the Kepler Science Conference and NASA's Kepler exoplanet week, to celebrate the successes of these missions and the scientists who have made exoplanet discoveries possible. "Kepler today tells us, indirectly ... that we are probably not alone".

Kepler Space Telescope Satellite that was sent in 2009 in search of alien planets has revealed the data that it has captured. Of the approximately 50 "Earth" exoplanets of Kepler, more than 30 have been confirmed.

Several of these planets orbit G dwarfs - the same species of star as our own sun.

The Kepler data has also led to another interesting finding.

It's too soon to say whether KOI 7711 truly merits the label "Earth-like", Thompson cautioned.

The 10 planets are located in the Cygnus constellation, a section of the Milky Way galaxy about 3,200 lightyears from Earth's solar system. Few planets were found between those groupings. Each world was either smaller and rocky, or larger and gassy. "This is a major new division in the family tree of exoplanets, somewhat analogous to the discovery that mammals and lizards are separate branches on the tree of life", Benjamin Fulton one of the authors said in a press briefing. This data will enable scientists to determine what planetary populations - from rocky bodies the size of Earth, to gas giants the size of Jupiter - make up the galaxy's planetary demographics.

It's hard to know for sure, because our own sun doesn't host a mini-Neptune - unless you count the hypothesized "Planet Nine" that some scientists believe lurks at the outer edge of the solar system.

Only the latter are habitable for life as we know it.

The latest catalog was created by taking a closer look at all four years of data from the Kepler mission. NASA estimates the telescope has enough fuel to remain active into 2018. The telescope has studied some 150,000 stars in the Cygnus constellation, a survey which NASA said is now complete.

Meanwhile, Kepler research scientist, Susan Thompson, stated that the Kepler mission has found fantastic things. "It has shown us these terrestrial worlds, and we still have all this work to do to really understand how common Earths are in the galaxy".

  • Carolyn Briggs