NASA’s Kepler Finds 17 New Exoplanets, Including an Earth-Sized World

Researchers have found 17 new planets, together with a doubtlessly liveable Earth-sized world, by combing via information gathered by NASA’s Kepler mission.

Over its authentic four-year mission, the Kepler satellite tv for pc appeared for planets, particularly people who lie within the “Habitable Zones” of their stars, the place liquid water might exist on a rocky planet’s floor, the study mentioned.

The findings, revealed in The Astronomical Journal, embrace one such significantly uncommon planet.

Officially named KIC-7340288 b, the planet found by Kunimoto is simply 1 and half occasions the scale of Earth – sufficiently small to be thought of rocky, as a substitute of gaseous like the large planets of the Solar System – and within the liveable zone of its star.

“This planet is about a thousand light years away, so we’re not getting there anytime soon!. But this is a really exciting find, since there have only been 15 small, confirmed planets in the Habitable Zone found in Kepler data so far,” mentioned research researcher Michelle Kunimoto from University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada.

According to the researchers, the planet has a 12 months that’s 142 and half days lengthy, orbiting its star at 0.444 Astronomical Units (AU, the gap between Earth and our Sun) – simply greater than Mercury’s orbit in our Solar System, and will get a couple of third of the sunshine Earth will get from the Sun.

Of the opposite 16 new planets found, the smallest is barely two-thirds the scale of Earth – one of many smallest planets to be discovered with Kepler to this point. The relaxation vary in measurement as much as eight occasions the scale of Earth, the research mentioned.

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Kunimoto beforehand found 4 throughout her undergraduate diploma at UBC. Now engaged on her PhD at UBC, she used what is called the “transit method” to search for the planets among the many roughly 200,000 stars noticed by the Kepler mission.

“Every time a planet passes in front of a star, it blocks a portion of that star’s light and causes a temporary decrease in the star’s brightness,” Kunimoto mentioned.

“By finding these dips, known as transits, you can start to piece together information about the planet, such as its size and how long it takes to orbit,” she added.

Kunimoto additionally collaborated with UBC alumnus Henry Ngo to acquire razor-sharp follow-up photos of a few of her planet-hosting stars with the Near InfraRed Imager and Spectrometer (NIRI) on the Gemini North 8-metre Telescope in Hawaii.

“I took images of the stars as if from space, using adaptive optics, I was able to tell if there was a star nearby that could have affected Kepler’s measurements, such as being the cause of the dip itself,” she mentioned.

In addition to the brand new planets, the researcher was in a position to observe hundreds of identified Kepler planets utilizing the transit-method, and will probably be reanalysing the exoplanet census as an entire.

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This post was last modified on March 1, 2020 8:18 pm

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