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nasa kepler planetary system

18 Earth Sized Exoplanets detected by astronomers

Humans are always looking for traces of life beyond the Earth. They look for Earth-sized planets which may have an Earth-like atmosphere to search for traces of life. A group of researchers from Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS), the Georg August University of Göttingen, and Sonneberg Observatory have recently observed around 18 Earth-sized planets beyond the solar system. The research was published in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Some of them are believed to have conditions suitable for life and were previously overlooked. This came to light after analyzing the data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. They are expecting close to 100 more exoplanets after analyzing the data even more. There are close to 4000 planets outside our solar system and 96% are said to be bigger than our Earth. It is not accurate as smaller planets are harder to track down than bigger planets. Small world planets can be potentially habitable planets and 18 newly discovered planets are Earth-sized.

Scientists look for a transit method to look out for stars with periodically recurring faint dips in star’s light and we can observe this if a star happens to have a planet whose orbital plane is aligned with line of sight of Earth and only then the planet blocks a small fraction of light as it passes in front of the star, once per orbit.

Standard algorithms search for sudden drops in brightness but in reality, when a planet moves in front of a star it blocks less starlight than at mid-way of the transit. Maximum dimming occurs at the center of the transit. For larger planets, the dip it produces is pretty obvious, even if the algorithm is searching for a sudden dip. Thus smaller planets are difficult to differentiate from normal fluctuations of stars.

The research team has decided to test as to what may be the result if they use a more gradual light curve in detecting planets than a sudden dip in brightness. They applied the algorithm to K2 Kepler Mission which resulted in the finding of 18 new planets, however, they are found to be non-habitable as they are orbiting very close to their stars and temperatures are expected to be as high as 100-1000 degrees Celsius.

The lone exception was EPIC 201238110.02, orbiting a red dwarf, which is placed in a habitable zone which is not too hot or not too cold. Planets like these have been found before but they have their own set of problems, when orbiting a red dwarf star, they usually spew out a lot of flares and radiation which could be deadly for nearby planets. However, this is a usual observation and not always true in reality. The Kepler archive has data set for thousands of stars and the newly implemented algorithm will keep looking for new Earth-like planets.

Would you like to go to these planets in other solar system and live there? Tell us with a short and quick comment.

Read more news about exoplanets:

  1. Rare-Earth elements detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet for the first time
  2. NASA’s TESS detects Earth-sized planet for the first time
Nasa Kepler Exoplanet System

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope detects the first exoplanet candidate in 10 years

At the fifth Kepler/K2 Science Conference which was held in Glendale, CA on Tuesday, March 5th 2019, Ashley Chontos, an astronomer of NASA’s Kepler Mission announced the confirmed identification of the first exoplanet candidate.

The Kepler Telescope was launched by NASA almost exactly 10 years ago. The mission was designed specifically to survey the region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and so far, it has done its best. It is in search of hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.

The Kepler-1658b was the first planet candidate discovered by the Kepler Telescope and so it was named after its telescope, which by the way characterized as a big star by the Kepler data later recorded.

It came out to be three times larger than previously thought. “Our new analysis, which uses stellar sound waves observed in the Kepler data to characterize the host star, demonstrated that the star is in fact three times larger than previously thought. This in turn means that the planet is three times larger, revealing that Kepler-1658b is actually a hot Jupiter-like planet,” said Chontos.

NASA Kepler Telescope

Illustration of NASA’s Kepler telescope. (Credit: NASA)

Although the team of astronomers led by Chontos had refined analysis and everything pointed to the object truly being a planet, but confirmation from new observation was still needed.

“We alerted Dave Latham (a senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and co-author on the paper) and his team collected the necessary spectroscopic data to unambiguously show that Kepler-1658b is a planet,” said Dan Huber, co-author and astronomer at the University of Hawaii. “As one of the pioneers of exoplanet science and a key figure behind the Kepler mission, it was particularly fitting to have Dave be part of this confirmation.”

Being three times larger in size than the Sun itself, Kepler-1658b is 50% more massive. It is one of the closest-in planets around a more evolved star orbiting at a distance of only twice the star’s diameter. As seen from the earth, the star would appear to be 60 times larger in diameter of the Sun if one is standing on the planet.

It is however, very rare for a planet similar to Kepler-1658b to orbit around an evolved star and the reason for this absence is poorly understood yet. The extreme nature of the Kepler-1658b system allows astronomers to place new constraints on the complex physical interactions that can cause planets to spiral into their host stars.

According to the studies and insights gained from Kepler-1658b, this process happens slower than thought earlier. Although, this might not be the primary reason for the lack of planets existing around more evolved stars.

“Kepler-1658b is a perfect example of why a better understanding of host stars of exoplanets is so important.” said Chontos. “It also tells us that there are many treasures left to be found in the Kepler data.”

About NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope

About Kepler Mission:
Launched in 2009, the Kepler mission is specifically designed to survey the region of the Milky Way galaxy in order discover hundreds of Earth-sized and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.