NASA Kepler Mission Looking for Another ‘Earth’
NASA’s Kepler mission is on the right track to fulfill its goal as it confirmed a discovery of 1,284 new planets or exoplanets. Does this mean another Earth is possible?
Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, has a surprising answer to this question.
The scientist said the number of newly validated planets is more than double the number of confirmed planets, thanks to Kepler.
“This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth.” – Ellen Stofan
How to Earn Planet Status?
The Kepler space telescope discovered 4,302 potential planets. This data was based on July 2015 planet candidate catalog. But through intensive analysis, the scientists were able to name 1,284 candidates that earn the status of “planet.”
How one can earn the status of a “planet”? One planet should earn a 99% chance to be called a planet. What about the rest of the potential planets? The other 1,327 candidates were not identified as planets because they failed to meet the 99 percent threshold and will need additional study. The remaining 707 are identified as astrophysical phenomena.
More Planets than Stars
With the discovery of new planets, this leads to a new assumption that there could be more planets than stars. And with the help of the Kepler space telescope, it confirmed the true existence of exoplanets in our galaxy.
Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters, said the new discovery will lead to other exploratory missions to look for another “Earth” in the galaxy.
“This knowledge informs the future missions that are needed to take us ever-closer to finding out whether we are alone in the universe.” – Paul Hertz
Descriptions of the Newly Discovered Planets
Out of the new discovered 1,284 planets discovered by Kepler, nearly 550 are described as rocky planets like Earth. Nine of these planets can orbit in their sun’s habitable zone.
Of the nearly 5,000 total planet candidates found to date, more than 3,200 now have been verified. Out of these newly validated planets, 2,325 of these were discovered by Kepler.
Kepler is the first NASA mission to find potentially habitable Earth-size planets orbiting stars. The spacecraft was named after the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler. It was successfully launched oHertzn March 7, 2009.