American Astronomical Society announced in a press conference that NASA’s Kepler space telescope has picked out another eight new planets i.e. “exoplanets” in the “Goldilocks zone”. Very interestingly two of these planets are expected to support life or more precisely “Alien life”.
Under the Kepler mission, NASA has been able to discover many exoplanets of different stars. Discovery of eight new planets in the very beginning of 2015 is considered to be a sign of a positive future.
Exoplanets are those planets which do not orbit the Sun instead these orbit some different star. Goldilocks zone aka Habitable zone is the area where a planet should be located orbiting its star to support existence of liquid water and nourishment of life.
Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b- two of the discovered eight new planets astronomers suggest being most similar to Earth. In fact the two came up to be closest in similarity to Earth among all exoplanets recorded till date. Both orbit red dwarf stars that are smaller and cooler than Sun; Kepler-438b which is 470 light years away from Earth completing an orbit in 35 days while Kepler-442b is 1100 light years from Earth completes in 112 days.
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According to conditions required to be in the habitable zone, a planet should be present at a suitable distance from its star. It should receive as much radiations from its star as Earth does from Sun. Any deflection would lead to either freezing or boiling away of water.
The possibility of being in the Goldilocks zone of a star depends upon the amount of radiations it receives from the star. And the chances of being a rocky planet correspond to the size of a planet.
Kepler-438b has a diameter 12 percent larger than Earth and receives about 40 percent more light than Earth. Thus according to the team it has 70 percent probability of being rocky and same prospect of being in the Goldilocks zone of its star. On the other hand Kepler-442b is approximately one-third larger than Earth and receives two-thirds as much radiations as Earth. It gets 60 percent chances of being rocky and 97 percent being in the habitable zone.
Past this, the two most Earth-like planets known were Kepler-186f, which is 1.1 times the size of Earth and receives 32 percent as much light; and Kepler-62f, which is 1.4 times the size of Earth and gets 41 percent as much light.
“From the Kepler measurements and the other measurements we made, we don’t know if these planets have oceans with fish and continents with trees,” Dr Caldwell told BBC News. “All we know is their size and the energy they’re receiving from their star,” he added.
Such discoveries tend to evolve many curious questions about new planets. Does life exists on them? Do we have company across universe? Comment down a discussion.
Read more about space science here on fossBytes.