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NASA Just Discovered 10 Earth-Like Alien Planets
A Universe of Earths
Planet hunters and science enthusiasts are rejoicing over NASA’s latest announcement. Today, a team of astronomers working with data from the K2 mission released a new catalog of potential alien planets. In a press conference held at NASA’s Ames Research Center, the team stated that they had identified 219 planet candidates, 10 of which are said to rocky worlds that are in the habitable zones of stars similar to the Sun—which is a yellow dwarf or G dwarf.
In short, it seems that we have 10 new planets that are Earth-like.
In science, “Earth-like” worlds are loosely defined as terrestrial worlds that have a chemical composition that is similar to our own planet and orbit in a relatively young star’s habitable zone (the “habitable zone” is defined as the orbit around a star where liquid water could theoretically exist on a planet’s surface).
The team was composed of Kepler research scientists Mario Perez, from the Astrophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, Susan Thompson, from the SETI Institute in California, Benjamin Fulton, from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and Courtney Dressing, NASA Sagan Fellow at Caltech.
To date, there are already 4,034 exoplanet candidates identified by Kepler, and 2,335 of these have been confirmed. The 10 new exoplanets adds to the 49 almost Earth-like exoplanets in habitable zones detected by Kepler, more than 30 of which have been verified.
Perhaps the most interesting of these is KY 7711, which Thompson said is located near its star in an orbit that is very similar to the path that Earth takes around the Sun, meaning that it reces the same amount of heat, although it is approximately 1.3 times smaller than our planet.
Typically, exoplanets fall in one of two categories: super-Earths, which have a radius that is 1.5 times that of the Earth, rocky surfaces, and often little to no atmosphere; and those that are like mini-Neptunes, which re about twice the Earth’s radius with thick atmospheres and no rocky surface. Exoplanets falling in between these two categories (i.e. world’s that are Earth-like) are smaller and, thus, much harder to identify. But as this latest find reveals, they are out there.