NASA finds 10 new potentially habitable 'Earth-like' worlds

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The scientists found that the newly discovered planets tended to fall into two distinct categories - smaller, rocky planets that are usually around 75 percent bigger than Earth, and much larger, gaseous planets similar in size to Neptune.

Kepler locates potential exoplanets by identifying transits, the brief dimming of a star caused by the obstruction of a planet orbiting across its face.

The latest catalog was created by taking a closer look at all four years of data from the Kepler mission.

Kepler research scientist Susan Thompson said, "It's fantastic, the things that Kepler has found".

The Kepler spacecraft continues to make observations in new patches of sky in its extended mission, searching for planets and studying a variety of interesting astronomical objects, from distant star clusters to objects such as the TRAPPIST-1 system of seven Earth-size planets, closer to home.

These worlds were found in the stars in the Cygnus constellation.

A second research group, whose members include Lauren Weiss, a postdoctoral researcher at Université de Montréal's Institute for Research on Exoplanets, combined the Kepler data with measurements from ground-based telescopes to calculate the approximate sizes and compositions of 2,000 exoplanets.

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In the most recent catalog to be released by the Kepler mission, an additional 219 new planet candidates have been added to its database.

Mario Perez, Kepler program scientist said "Are we alone?" Given a little time and some sophisticated models, scientists will use the Kepler catalogue to estimate how many stars in our galaxy could host an "Earth 2.0".

Kepler is the first space telescope capable of finding Earth-sized planets in or near the habitable zone.

Discovering that distinction "sharpens up the dividing line between potentially habitable planets and those that are inhospitable to life as we know it", Fulton explained, likening it to "the discovery that mammals and lizards are separate branches on the tree of life". The researchers also believe it to be the most detailed catalog of exoplanet candidates.

Meanwhile, Kepler research scientist, Susan Thompson, stated that the Kepler mission has found incredible things. "I am really excited to see what people are going to do with this catalog". "It has shown us these terrestrial worlds, and we still have all this work to do to really understand how common Earths are in the galaxy". This consists of monitoring stars for occasional dips in brightness, which is used to confirm the presence of planets transiting between the star and the observer.

Ten new planets similar to Earth have been discovered by Nasa. A dozen of the planets that seem to be in the potentially habitable zone circle Earth-like stars, not cooler red dwarfs.

Based on how many habitable-zone planets have already been identified, Caltech astrophysicist Courtney Dressing thinks that number could be sizable.

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