Nasa discovers 10 new 'rocky' planets like Earth

Earth might have more company in the universe.

The NASA Kepler mission has discovered 219 more exoplanets, including 10 Earth-size planets, program scientist Mario Perez said Monday at NASA's Ames Research Center in California.

"Understanding their frequency in the galaxy will help inform the design of future Nasa missions to directly image another Earth". The 10 new exoplanets adds to the 49 nearly Earth-like exoplanets in habitable zones detected by Kepler, more than 30 of which have been verified.

Due to their potential for hosting life, the 10 Earth-size planets are the most glamorous of the newly announced planets from Kepler.

NASA says the telescope is able to accomplish this by detecting a drop in a star's brightness, which happens when a planet passes in front of it. Susan Thompson, Kepler research scientist, said in the release that the telescope's catalog will serve as a foundation to answer the question of "how many planets like our Earth are in the galaxy?"

This artist rendering provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle, taken in 2015, depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of a star that is similar to our sun. For the first four years of Kepler's mission, the space telescope trained its telescopic eye on a small region in space, specifically in the Cygnus constellation, and of the suspected exoplanets, 2,335 have been verified as actually being planets. "Intermediate-size planets between these two size groups are relatively rare". "It's unbelievable the things that Kepler has found, it has shown us these terrestrial worlds, and we still have all this work to do to understand how common Earths are in the galaxy".


And, in a statement, Nasa said: "There are now 4,034 planet candidates identified by Kepler". If Kepler, the planet and its star don't line up, we can't see a transit. 219 new planet candidates were added to the final tally of 4,034 candidates.

In comparison, our solar system looks like it has three planets in the habitable zone of the sun: Mars, Venus and Earth. Kepler's main mission ended in 2013 after the failure of two of its four wheels that control its orientation in space.

The Kepler catalog reveals that the rocky planets are often about 75 percent larger than Earth, and about around half of these planets end up accumulating the common gases helium and hydrogen, which "swells" their size, transforming them into Neptune-like planets.

"The gap in radius is really interesting and comes from meticulous follow-up of the previously discovered Kepler planets, rather than the ones announced today", says astronomer David Kipping of Columbia University, who was not involved in the study.

Even more remarkable than the sheer number of planets discovered is the method by which Kepler discovered them. He likened the discovery to realizing that mammals and reptiles are on separate branches of the evolutionary tree.

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