The Kepler spacecraft has detected 219 new exoplanet candidates – and ten could be habitable.
In a press briefing today at NASA’s Ames Research Center, scientists revealed the ‘most reliable’ catalog yet of potential planets in our galaxy, bringing the total to 4,034.
According to the scientists, over 2,300 planets spotted during the Kepler missions have been confirmed so far, including over 30 terrestrial-sized planets that lie in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ of their star.
Of the 219 new planet candidates, 10 are near-Earth sized and orbit within the habitable zone of their host star, the Kepler scientists revealed during the briefing today.
The habitable zone represents a range in which a planet could be the right temperature to host liquid water at the surface.
With the new analysis, the number of terrestrial-sized candidates in habitable zones has now climbed to about 50, with over 30 confirmed as exoplanets.
The closest candidate to Earth is an object known as K77-11, the researchers say.
It receives just about the same amount of energy as we do from our sun, and is only slightly larger than Earth, at 1.3 Earth-radii, explained Susan Thompson, Kepler research scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.
The latest catalog represents Kepler’s final survey from the Cygnus constellation, and spans the spacecraft’s first four years of data.
Of the 4,034 candidates identified so far, 2,335 have now been verified.
Researchers say the findings could ultimately help guide the search for alien life, offering ‘the most complete and reliable accounting of distant worlds to date.’
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