NASA’s Space Observatory Kepler Points at Three New ‘Earths’


NASA’s space observatory, Kepler, on the lookout since 2009, hit three home runs in its K2 mission. Three new planets, around Earth’s size, orbiting suns more like our own, get NASA’s attention, as Kepler points out the distance from them to their stars to be as Earth’s distance to the sun.

It is called Goldilocks, the zone where a planet circles its sun, not too close or too far, for it to maintain the conditions for liquid water, therefore to sustain life, at least as humans know it, and NASA says that these three planets are in exactly that zone. Out of the 150.000 suns scouted so far Kepler found not less than 4.175 objects, which scientists call candidates, with the potential of being exoplanets and from those, 554 were just recently added.

Dr. Doug Caldwell, of the SETI Institute and NASA’s Ames Research Center, co-investigator for the Kepler mission, said that they confirmed more of these to be planets in the habitable zone. As Tuesday, the number they reached was 1,004, with these three to be most probably Earth-like. Also, Dr. Caldwell states that it is possible out there, for life to exist in conditions foreign to Earth’s needs.

NASA’s space observatory, Kepler, brings up eight planets to be smaller than the others and in the more similar conditions as Earth. From those eight are the three new ‘Earths’ found and two of them have a big chance of being rocky on the surface. These are Kepler 438-b, which circles its sun in 35 days and is as far from Earth as 470 light-years and Kepler 442-b which is more than twice as far, 1100 light-years and it takes 112 days to complete a revolution movement as it points out.

Scientists do not know for sure whether these worlds are friendly for beings like us and all they can say is that are “promising candidates.” Since 2009, Kepler has watched the northern sky to observe the movements of objects in relationship to their stars and it does so by looking close at the stars and their repeated dimmer light, when the objects cross in front of them.

Before 1994, astronomers fought really hard to find an exoplanet that was orbiting a main sequence sun and they finally did so in October that year. The planet, 51 Pegasi b, was a gas giant more like Jupiter. Within the last four years, the Kepler missions made astronomers rest assured of the many possibilities of existing exoplanets, with a staggering 1800 found so far.

TESS comes from Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and it is NASA’s newest project, one that they say will have the ability to find more planets than Kepler, because it will scout the entire sky. Until then, Kepler is alert for new findings, as the K2 mission continues for another two years.

The three new ‘Earths’ found through the help of the space observatory, Kepler, in addition to the other five from before, is but the beginning. More points will be scored, as NASA’s technology grows wider and not to forget the possibility of finding life.


By Sebastian Andro


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