A group of international scientists has just discovered 20 new exoplanets that are within habitable orbits from their respective stars. The discovery was made possible by the Kepler space telescope, which managed to gather over eight years of data before breaking down in 2013. But before it did, Kepler recorded over 150.000 stars.
While going through this data, scientists have been able to narrow down a list of exoplanets. Exoplanets are planets that are situated outside our solar system that orbit a star of their own. While the list spans over four thousand planets, only twenty are thought to be in the habitable zone.
The research paper where the findings were presented closes in on one particular planet designated KOI-7923.01. This exoplanet apparently orbits around its star similarly to how Earth orbits the Sun. While the star itself is colder than our own, the planet may, in turn, be rocky and cool but the temperature would still allow life to exist. The orbit of KOI-7923.01 is also eerily close to Earth’s, spanning 395 days. Co-author and Kepler team lead Jeff Coughlin states the exoplanet to be our best bet out of the twenty.
“If you had to choose one to send a spacecraft to, it’s not a bad option.”
This discovery is sure to spark renewed interest in exoplanet research. The planets discovered aren’t yet convinced due to a malfunction in Kepler’s recording on that particular patch of sky. However, morale remains high that the findings are genuine.
Kepler was only able to observe these exoplanets once or twice when they passed in front of their stars with Coughlin acknowledging they are only 70%-80% certain of habitability of their recent findings.
Planets don’t register on the telescope as much because they don’t glow. The only way to identify an exoplanet is to observe any shadows that move in front of the sun. Only if they are spotted several times can we be certain. So far our new candidates have been seen two times.
Image source: Wikipedia Commons