Kepler shows 219 new exoplanets including 10 that could harbor liquid water

Are we alone in the universe ? The question still keeps all its mystery, but the probability that it is negative increases and as the list of extrasolar planet‘s that could potentially host liquid water increases. And Monday, 19 June 2017, this list was further lengthened to 10 new names. In fact, during a press conference broadcast live on Monday at 17h, the teams in charge of the telescope have announced the discovery of 219 new exoplanets, of which about fifty are of dimensions comparable to the Earth. And among those, a dozen would be located in the area of “space” around their star. That is to say, orbiting at a distance allowing the planet to receive sufficient energy to the water, if their surface hosts, may remain in the liquid state. A necessary condition (although not sufficient alone) for that grows life in the form that we know of.

In total, 4.034 exoplanets have been detected by Kepler, which 2.335 have been confirmed by other telescopes. You can find the complete list here. On the fifty planets potentially sisters of the Earth, more than 30 have been confirmed. “This catalog of scrutiny is the scientific basis that will respond directly to one of the most burning questions in astronomy of determining the number of planets sisters of the Earth in the galaxy”, the Milky Way, said Susan Thompson, a science team, Kepler and SETI Institute dedicated to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. This discovery is not the result of a new observation, goal rather of a new analysis of the mountain of data already collected by the telescope during first-of-its four years of operation. The new exoplanets have been discovered by the transit method, that is to say, a drop tiny of brightness in a row at the passing of something in front of the star (in this case, one or several planets). The detection of its transits allows, by measuring the duration as well as the decrease of brightness observed of a star, to deduce information about the size of planets passing in front. The researchers were able to detect two types of profiles : planet without a doubt, the rockies are comparable in size to the earth, and giant planets somewhat smaller than Neptune. Some exoplanets are not involved in any of the two categories.

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Size comparison of Earth and Neptune. Credit : Nasa

These latest discoveries were announced to the press on the sidelines of the conference “Fourth Kepler and K2 science” which is being held this week at the Ames research center of Nasa in California. This is the final version and the more complete and detailed catalog of exoplanets found from the data collected during four years of observations from this telescope. Kepler was launched in 2009, aim stis initial mission was completed in 2013 as a result of failure of its gyroscopes. The telescope has scrutinized the 150,000 stars in the constellation of the Swan.

Area of observation of the Kepler space telescope. Credit : Nasa.

E. L. With AFP