NASA's Kepler mission finds 10 Earth-size exoplanets, 209 others

An artist's impression of a new planet

Of those, 10 are potentially rocky and located in the habitable zones of their stars where liquid water might be found. And it only looked in a tiny part of the galaxy, one quarter of one percent of a galaxy that holds about 200 billion of stars.

The search for extraterrestrials just got some serious pin drops on the celestial map with the discovery of 10 new planets that may have life.

WASHINGTON (AP) — NASA's planet-hunting telescope has found 10 new planets outside our solar system that are likely the right size and temperature to potentially have life on them, broadly hinting that we are probably not alone.

"Kepler planets had appeared to span all sizes between one and four times the size of Earth, but when measured precisely, small planets (fall) into two distinct size groups", said Benjamin Fulton, a researcher at the University of Hawaii and the California Institute of Technology.

Even more remarkable than the sheer number of planets discovered is the method by which Kepler discovered them.

For more information about Kepler Exoplanet Week, go to nasa.gov/kepler/exoplanetweek. Kepler has been surveying the Cygnus constellation since 2009, and during that time scientists have found more than 5,000 potential exoplanets in an area of the sky about 3,000 light-years away from Earth.

The mission ran into technical problems in 2013 when mechanisms used to turn the spacecraft failed but the telescope has continued searching for potentially habitable planets as part of its K2 project.

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According to the scientists, over 2300 planets spotted during the Kepler & K2 missions have been confirmed so far, including 50 terrestrial-sized planets that lie in the "Goldilocks Zone" of their star.

Kepler's latest mission, K2, now observes several locations around the plane of our solar system, as the telescope uses light pressure from the Sun to stabilize its observations.

Kepler spots planets by looking for dips in the brightness of the stars they orbit, known as a "transit".

"Understanding their frequency in the galaxy will help inform the design of future Nasa missions to directly image another Earth".

The researchers also found that rocky planets are often up to 75% larger than Earth, caused by these worlds consuming a small amount of hydrogen and helium that makes them balloon in size.

Some exoplanets closely resemble Earth and are a few of the best places to look for alien life.

For the final catalog, the team focused on teasing out Earth-sized planets around G-type stars like our sun. Like other missions that have outlived their expected lifespan, Kepler broadened its search in 2014 to include other parts of our galaxy and has been taking in data ever since. Researchers are now using the Hubble Space Telescope to determine if these planets had atmosphere. In the mid-2020s, we have our sights on taking a picture of small planets like Earth with our Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

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