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NASA Discovers 219 New Planets with Kepler Mission; 10 Are Earth-Size

20 June 2017

NASA recently announced on Twitter that they have "identified 219 potential new worlds".

Those 10 exoplanets are potentially rocky and orbit within the habitable zone of stars, which means that there could be liquid water on their surfaces, Perez added.

Seven of the Earth-size planets circle stars that are just like ours, not cool dwarf ones that require a planet to be quite close to its star for the right temperature.

In total, 4,034 exoplanets have been detected by Kepler, 2,335 of which have been confirmed by other telescopes.

"The Kepler data set is unique, as it is the only one containing a population of these near-Earth analogs: planets with roughly the same size and orbit as Earth", said the program scientist.

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"This carefully-measured catalog is the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy's most compelling questions - how many planets like our Earth are in the galaxy?" said Susan Thompson, a Kepler research scientist and lead author of the latest study.

The latest analysis suggests the galaxy hosts two distinct populations of small exoplanets - rocky, Earth-like planets and gaseous planets no bigger than Neptune.

The planets were found by a telescope and are probably the right size and temperature to potentially have life on them, scientists said.

One of the research groups was able, thanks to the data provided by Kepler, to make precise measurements of thousands of planets. The mission started by observing the constellation of Cygnus. The talk among scientists at a Kepler conference in California this weekend is that it is closer to 60 percent, he said.

"Are we alone? Maybe Kepler today has told us indirectly, although we need confirmation, that we are probably not alone", Kepler scientist Mario Perez said in a Monday news conference. "I am really excited to see what people are going to do with this catalog".

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It was created to survey part of the galaxy to see how frequent planets are and how frequent Earth-size and potentially habitable planets are.

With these latest Kepler discoveries, Nasa publishes the most complete and detailed version of the catalog of exoplanets found from data collected during four years of observations of this telescope.

Although the Kepler mission has yet to fulfill one of its goals, which is determining the fraction of sun-like stars hosting Earth-like planets in our galaxy, these data will help astronomers determine that number in the next few years, the researchers said.

The Kepler telescope detects the presence of planets by registering minuscule drops in a star's brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it, a movement known as a transit. But while Kepler looked at one portion of the sky for stars that were farther away for a longer time, TESS will observe the entire sky and focus on the brightest and closest stars. "We can imagine the day where we actually take direct images of planets like the Earth in the habitable zone of sun-like stars".

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