When the Kepler Space Observatory first launched in 2009, its mission was to search the heavens for exoplanets around distant stars. Since then, it has discovered more than 4,000 possible worlds outside our solar system, including several similar in size to Earth. The most recent batch of data found 219 exoplanets. At least ten among them are the right mass and distance from their sun to possibly harbor life forms.
10 New Planets in the “Goldilocks” Zone
These 10 new planets are all in the so-called “Goldilocks” zone of their stars. This means that this area is neither too cold nor too hot for liquid water to be found on the planet’s surface. The radii of these orbits will vary from ours, considering different stars put out different levels of energy.
However, the resulting planetary temperatures would be about the same. These planets are also estimated to have a mass somewhat similar to Earth’s. Most are believed to be rocky in composition. They also appear free of a star with radiation levels that would hamper the development of life.
At the moment, these 10 new planets are only “candidates”. They are awaiting confirmation through additional studies. Of the 4,034 planetary candidates detected by Kepler, 2,335 have been confirmed by independent researchers. About 30 of these have been determined to be “Earth-like”.
Knowing that life evolved on our own planet gives us a single point data set to extrapolate that, on similar worlds, life might evolve as well. This gives us some starting points in the search for any form of extraterrestrial species.
Also, this is not the largest haul of planets on Kepler’s list. In May, over a thousand potential candidates were announced. The array will now continue its extended mission, including the examination of the seven Earth-like Trappist-1 planets, discovered earlier this year all in a single star system.
Image Source: JPL/NASA