NASA’s Kepler space telescope continues to amaze scientists with its ability to detect large numbers of exoplanets. This time, the telescope outdid itself by providing NASA with a huge bounty of celestial bodies.
Kepler’s current K2 mission managed to detect 95 more alien planets, thought to be either smaller than Earth or as massive as Jupiter. That brings Kepler’s current mission tally to 292 exoplanets discovered while its total haul across the telescope’s operation life amounts to nearly 2,440 finds. In addition to the outstanding number of confirmed planets that could sustain life, Kepler has at least 2 thousand more candidates awaiting confirmation.
Exoplanets are planets located outside our solar system which orbits stars similar to how our Earth orbits the Sun.
In order for Kepler or any other telescope to detect these celestial bodies, scientists track dips in light caused by the shadow of an exoplanet passing in front of its star.
“We started out analyzing 275 candidates of which 149 were validated as real exoplanets,” Said Andrew Mayo, a Ph.D. student who works at the National Space Institute, and the lead author of the study detailing the discovery. “In turn 95 of these planets have been proved to be new discoveries.”
Kepler suffered a major malfunction in 2013, which prompted scientists to give the telescope a follow-up K2 mission that’s proving to be more successful.
Since the mid-1990s, astronomers have cataloged more than 3.600 confirmed exoplanets. The two Kepler mission were able to find a whopping 5.100 unconfirmed exoplanet candidates.
The ultimate goal of this endeavor is to track down exoplanets that are rocky, habitable, and are approximately the same size as Earth, which could be capable of supporting life.
The study was published in the Astronomical Journal.
Image Source: Nasa.gov