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Kepler Telescope Reveals 715 New Planets, a 'Bonanza' for NASA Scientists: VIDEO

Goldilocks

GlobalPost

Four of the 715 new planets discovered by NASA's Kepler are less than 2 1/2 times the size of Earth and orbit in their sun’s 'Goldilocks' zone.

Using statistics and data from the Kepler telescope, NASA announced on Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets, a “bonanza” likely to continue for years to come.

KeplerThe newest discoveries increase the known planets outside the Milky Way to 1,700 from about 1,000.

To verify this bounty of planets, a research team co-led by planetary scientist Jack Lissauer analyzed stars with more than one potential planet.

“Four years ago, Kepler began a string of announcements of first hundreds, then thousands, of planet candidates — but they were only candidate worlds,” Lissauer said online.

“We’ve now developed a process to verify multiple planet candidates in bulk to deliver planets wholesale, and have used it to unveil a veritable bonanza of new worlds.”

The newly verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system, NASA said.

Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is still almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.

The research team used a technique called verification by multiplicity, which relies in part on probability. Kepler observes 150,000 stars and has found a few thousand of those to have planet candidates.

If the candidates were randomly distributed among Kepler’s stars, only a handful would have more than one planet candidate. However, Kepler observed hundreds of stars that have multiple planet candidates.

Four of the new planets are less than 2 1/2 times the size of Earth and orbit in their sun’s “Goldilocks” zone, or the distance from a star that’s “just right” for liquid water.

One of these new planets, called Kepler-296f, orbits a star half the size and five percent as bright as our sun. It’s twice the size of Earth, but scientists do not know whether the planet is a gaseous world, with a thick hydrogen-helium envelope, or it is a water world surrounded by a deep ocean.

“From this study we learn planets in these multi-systems are small, and their orbits are flat and circular — resembling pancakes —not your classical view of an atom,” said Jason Rowe, co-leader of the research.

“The more we explore the more we find familiar traces of ourselves amongst the stars that remind us of home.”

Launched in March 2009, Kepler is the first NASA mission to find potentially habitable Earth-size planets. Discoveries include more than 3,600 planet candidates, of which 961 have been verified as bona-fide worlds.

An animation of the Kepler system, AFTER THE JUMP...

Exoplanet

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Comments

  1. Unnamed Global Post Reporter:

    These planets are not "outside the Milky Way." They are outside of this solar system.

    Posted by: Astrocartography Dept | Mar 1, 2014 4:45:06 PM


  2. We are getting closer to finding life out there.

    Posted by: Tom | Mar 1, 2014 5:32:12 PM


  3. of course each planet is millions of light years away. So each one is currently millions of year older now. So each planet that is judged likely to support life has already destroyed itself in the name of god.

    Posted by: Howard | Mar 1, 2014 5:43:29 PM


  4. I feel lucky to be alive in such a momentous era. I wonder how our ancestors would have felt, knowing that there were so many other worlds out there.

    Posted by: Håkon | Mar 1, 2014 5:48:03 PM


  5. @Howard: Considering that the Milky Way Galaxy is only 100,000 light years in diameter and 1000 light years thick...your calculations are a bit off.

    The most distant planet identified to date is approximately 21,500 light years from Earth. It is a single planet system that is (likely) a rocky ball of ice roughly 5.5 times the size of Earth orbiting a red dwarf, OGLE-2005-BLG-390L, at a distance 2.6 AUs.

    @Globalpost: Watch your facts, Milky Way is the name of our galaxy, Sol is the name of Earth's parent star, thus we live in the Sol (or Solar) System. Space Geeks will eat you for lunch for such a error.

    Posted by: AggieCowboy | Mar 1, 2014 6:11:08 PM


  6. Anywhere but here right? Especially now.

    Posted by: Jason | Mar 1, 2014 7:08:30 PM


  7. At 2.5 the Earth's mass, any atmosphere would dissipate into space given the weak gravitational hold. It would also require an iron core for a magnetosphere against cosmic rays and its solar wind, which is the reason why Mars lost all its air.

    Posted by: ggrr | Mar 1, 2014 7:47:29 PM


  8. Keep in mind that Earth itself could not support life (as it exists now) for almost 8/9ths of its existence, so being the right size and having the right distance from its sun means very little.

    Posted by: Gregory in Seattle | Mar 1, 2014 8:14:15 PM


  9. @ggrr : Are you trying to set a record for the number of errors that can be crammed into three lines?

    FYI the gravitational field (Newton's version is more than adequate here) is proportional to the planet's mass and inversely proportional to the square of its radius. If a planet with a mass 2.5 times that of ours can't keep its atmosphere, why do we have one?

    Both Jupiter and Saturn are not believed to have iron cores, but rather liquid metallic hydrogen cores, and both have a magnetic field. Iron isn't required. The earth's magnetic field is not the result of a permanent magnet, but rather due to having a rotating molten core that is conductive. Meanwhile Venus has an induced magnetic field due to the interaction of the solar wind with Venus' ionosphere, but it is much weaker than ours. Yet in spite of being closer to the sun and less massive than the earth, it has kept its atmosphere.

    Posted by: Bill | Mar 1, 2014 8:21:17 PM


  10. GFY Bill :)

    Posted by: ggrr | Mar 1, 2014 8:24:16 PM


  11. @GGRR: You need to add 'molten' in there. Mars likely has a solid core and, therefore, can no longer generate a magnetosphere.

    Nor is an iron core required. Super-Earths may be too massive to have differentiated layers, but can generate magnetospheres by a different mechanism.

    Posted by: AggieCowboy | Mar 1, 2014 8:35:43 PM


  12. @Aggie

    Elaborate on the different mechanisms if you can. Thanks, I'm very interested in these ideas.

    Posted by: ggrr | Mar 1, 2014 8:54:18 PM


  13. Space is the new drag boys...

    Posted by: Mhm | Mar 1, 2014 8:57:22 PM


  14. "outside the milky way"?

    um, no. that's a bad error for an article like this.

    Posted by: jaker | Mar 1, 2014 9:08:16 PM


  15. What about gaydar? Can't that be used to identify extra-planetary life with attitude? Surely.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Mar 1, 2014 10:47:56 PM


  16. @ggrr : if you really want to know the mechanisms, read up on magnetohydrodynamics.

    Before you can even begin to understand Maxwell's equations and the Navier-Stokes equations, you'd have to know far more physics than is covered in basic courses that explain Newton's law of gravity, so you have a lot of work to do.

    Posted by: Bill | Mar 1, 2014 11:22:25 PM


  17. At least one of these new planets is bound to be pink.

    Posted by: anon | Mar 2, 2014 11:11:04 AM


  18. Great news! Now all we need is another millennia before we might be able to think about visiting them.

    Posted by: D.R.H. | Mar 2, 2014 11:18:53 AM


  19. Don't expect me to care about the "new" planets until you give me Pluto back.

    Posted by: Ruddigore | Mar 2, 2014 1:47:03 PM


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