There could be more habitable planets out there than we think. A new analysis of data obtained by the Kepler space telescope has revealed 20 alien world candidates capable of harboring life as we know it.
The updated list includes several planets that orbit stars like our sun. Some have relatively long orbital periods, similar to Earth’s, and others much shorter, only months or Earth weeks.
“The exoplanet where the year lasts longer, exactly 395 Earth days, is just one of the most promising,” said Jeff Coughlin, Kepler’s team author of the finding.
Called KOI-7923.01 (Kepler Object of Interest), the alien world is 97 percent the size of the Earth, but it has a slightly cooler average temperature, mainly due to the distance it maintains with its star, which is also not as hot as our sun.
However, the latter does not represent an impediment to the existence of liquid water on its surface, something essential for life as we know it.
‘If you had to choose one to send a spacecraft to, it’s not a bad option,’ Jeff Coughlin, a Kepler team lead who helped find the potential planets, told New Scientist.
This means that KOI-7923.01 is has a landscape more similar to tundra regions on Earth, than temperate ones. However, it’s still warm enough and large enough to hold liquid water on its surface, reports New Scientists.
Astronomers cataloged the new planets using a new tool called Robovetter, which has the ability to automatically analyze what the Kepler Space Telescope has found.
“The catalog contains 8054 KOIs of which 4034 are planet candidates with periods between 0.25 and 632 days. Of these candidates, 219 are new in this catalog and include two new candidates in multi-planet systems (KOI-82.06 and KOI-2926.05), and ten new high-reliability, terrestrial-size, habitable zone candidates,” wrote astronomers in the new study available at arXiv.org.
In order to be 100 percent sure, researchers need to perform follow-up studies to confirm the above-mentioned candidates.
Kepler has made stunning discoveries.
Earlier this year, the Kepler space telescope located 219 exoplanet candidates, and ten could be habitable. During a press briefing in early 2017 at NASA’s Ames Research Center, astronomers reveled what is considered as the ‘most reliable’ catalog of potentially habitable worlds in our galaxy, bringing the total number to 4,034.
Astronomers say that more than 2,300 planets spotted during the Kepler missions have been confirmed, including more than 30 Earth-sized planets that are located in the so-called Goldilocks Zone’ of their host star.
The newly released catalog features the results from Kepler’s final survey made from the Constellation of Cygnus and includes the spacecraft’s first four years of data.
From the 4,034 candidates that have been spotted by astronomers, 2,335 have been verified.
These results could eventually prove helpful as a guide in the search for alien life, say scientists, saying that the lis offers ‘the most complete and reliable accounting of distant worlds to date.’
‘This new result presented today has implications for understanding the frequency of different types of planets and galaxies, and helping us to advance our knowledge on how planets are formed,’ said Mario Perez, Kepler program scientist in the Astrophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, during the conference.
(H/T New Scientist)