NASA's Kepler Discovers Over 100 New Exoplanets

Monday, 18 July 2016 - 2:23PM
Monday, 18 July 2016 - 2:23PM
Have we discovered a new Earth? NASA's Kepler has just discovered over one hundred new exoplanets on its K2 mission, including four that are orbiting a Sun-like dwarf star.

The K2 mission has discovered 197 planet candidates, 104 of which are confirmed planets. Of these, four are orbiting a single dwarf star, dubbed K2-72, which is 181 light years away from Earth, in the direction of the Aquarius constellation. The system was found using observations from Kepler, which were then corroborated by follow-up observations from North Gemini telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the Automated Planet Finder of the University of California Observatories, and the Large Binocular Telescope at the University of Arizona.

Some of these planets could potentially be Earth analogues, especially since NASA researchers claim that they could be rocky. Although the star is less than half as large as the Sun, and not nearly as bright, two of the four planets might have similar amounts of irradiation to Earth. And the other two planets--whose orbits might be closer than Mercury--are most likely too hot to support life, but still, NASA claimed they couldn't rule them out as hosts for extraterrestrial life.
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"This bountiful list of validated exoplanets from the K2 mission highlights the fact that the targeted examination of bright stars and nearby stars along the ecliptic is providing many interesting new planets," K2 project scientist Steve Howell said in a NASA statement. "These targets allow the astronomical community ease of follow-up and characterization, providing a few gems for first study by the James Webb Space Telescope, which could perhaps tell us about the planets' atmospheres."
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