Kepler - you’ve heard of it, right? If you haven’t, no worries! The Kepler is a space observatory equipped with a camera. The Kepler Mission’s aim is to explore “the structure and diversity of planetary systems.” In particular, earth-sized planets.
How does the kepler find planets? Gizmodo sums it up nicely “Kepler performs its search for planets by sniffing for minute dips in a star’s brightness, which are suggestive of a planet orbiting in front of it.” Recently, Kepler found a whopping 90+ new exoplanets.
Exoplanets, in short, is a planet that orbits a star outside the solar system. They play a major role in not only better understanding our universe but in the search for life.
The 95 new exoplanets came from an original 275 candidates from data provided by the Kepler Mission. 149 were defined as “real exoplanets” and of these 149 a whopping 95 were confirmed to be brand new discoveries.
These newly discovered planets include rocky, Earth-like worlds that range in sizes from similar to our own...to even larger than Jupiter!
Exoplanets are very important because each one helps scientists understand where exactly our Solar System fits in the larger context of space. For example, through studying we have realized that our space neighborhood is...a bit strange. Many star systems that Kepler has allowed us to view “ blazingly hot and massive gas giants that sit uncomfortably close to their host stars, or binary star systems in which complex gravitational effects make it difficult for planets to form.”
Several upcoming space missions, like the Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite, will allow astronomers to take innovative steps toward characterizing, studying, and analyzing exoplanets that might be capable of supporting life.
The above image is an artist’s impression shows several of the planets orbiting the ultra-cool red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. New observations, when combined with very sophisticated analysis, have now yielded good estimates of the densities of all seven of the Earth-sized planets and suggest that they are rich in volatile materials, probably water. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.