The potentially habitable space rocks, which have not yet been verified, are among 219 new planet candidates spotted by NASA's Kepler space telescope in the Cygnus constellation.
"The Kepler data set is unique, as it is the only one containing a population of these near-Earth analogs: planets with roughly the same size and orbit as Earth", he said.
Kepler planet candidates, plotted by size relative to Earth and length of orbit, which is a function of distance from its star. That planet is situated around the closest star. But researchers don't know much more than that.
NASA announced the discovery of three other potentially habitable planets in a single solar system relatively close to Earth in February. "I would only want to live on one of those", said Susan Thompson, a Kepler research scientist. In its four years in service, the Kepler space telescope has identified 4,034 new planet candidates with more than half of those being confirmed as exoplanets.
Additionally, results using Kepler data suggest two distinct size groupings of small planets. Now, we know that exoplanets can be cold gas giants, hot Jupiters, ocean worlds, ice giants, lava worlds and rocky planets.
The Kepler space telescope hunts for planets by detecting the miniscule drop in a star's brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it, called a transit.
NASA said the latest catalog is the most complete and detailed survey of potential exoplanets yet compiled. "But actually I see it as a new beginning". "It's awesome the things that Kepler has found", Thompson said.
NASA announced the discover of 550 rocky planets in May, nine of which orbited their stars' "Goldilocks Zones" and were of a similar size to Earth. Of which, 2,335 have been verified as exoplanets. While the catalog from the Kepler mission, the first four years Kepler was in space, will not change after Monday, the catalog from K2 may change and grow in the future.
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Ames manages the Kepler missions for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. This turned into the K2 mission.
These planets are usually 1.6 times the size of Earth, with rocky terrain.
And the researchers are ecstatic that the survey produced 50 exoplanet candidates similar in size to Earth.
Some exoplanets closely resemble Earth and are a few of the best places to look for alien life. Each star will be observed for 30 days.
The latest findings were released at the Fourth Kepler and K2 science conference being held this week at NASA's Ames research center in California.
It has enough fuel to keep identifying candidates until summer 2018 and is helping bridge the gap between Kepler and TESS by identifying targets for the James Webb Space Telescope to observe.
This artist's vision shows what a Kepler exoplanet might look like. Earth-sized planets are of particular interest because they can teach us about how our own planet formed, and because there's a small chance they could harbor life.
"This number could have been very, very small", said Caltech astronomer Courtney Dressing. A dozen of the planets that seem to be in the potentially habitable zone circle Earth-like stars, not cooler red dwarfs.