Astronomy

Nasas Kepler Satellite Finds Potentially Habitable Planets Trillions of Miles away



Tweet
Leigh Goessl's image for:
"Nasas Kepler Satellite Finds Potentially Habitable Planets Trillions of Miles away"
Caption: 
Location: 
Image by: 
©  

As our society continues to be fascinated by what is in outer space, scientists continue to look past our immediate horizons and into what existences might be beyond.

In April 2013, scientists announced the discovery of three previously unknown planets located in what has been described as a "habitable zone". The planets were discovered by NASA's Kepler satellite, which has been scoping out sections of the universe since 2009.

According to CNN, Kepler has been "keeping an eye" on over 150,000 stars in the hopes of finding life-sustainable planets. It was during this watch the trio of potentially habitable planets were found. Seven planets were found, but four were determined to not be inhabitable.

In the far-away solar system sit Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f. The planets are named after the host star they orbit, which is called Kepler-62. A third planet, Kepler-69c, is in another solar system. All three planets are said to be in zones that could potentially harbor life.

Kepler-62e is approximately 60 percent larger than Earth and has a shorter orbit time around its star, 122 days. Kepler-62f is a bit smaller in size, about 40 percent bigger than Earth and is believed to have a rocky terrain.

Kepler-69c has been likened to Venus. It is described as being 70 percent larger than Earth, believed to be much warmer than our planet, and could potentially have deep oceans.

The solar systems have been described by experts as being over 6 trillion miles away, so there will be no trips to these planets anytime soon.

"The Kepler spacecraft has certainly turned out to be a rock star of science," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement (courtesy PC Magazine). "The discovery of these rocky planets in the habitable zone brings us a bit closer to finding a place like home. It is only a matter of time before we know if the galaxy is home to a multitude of planets like Earth, or if we are a rarity."

According to PC Magazine, so far 2,740 possible planets have been found, and 122 have been confirmed.

"With all of these discoveries we're finding, Earth is looking less and less like a special place and more like there's Earth-like things everywhere," said Thomas Barclay, Kepler scientist at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute in Sonoma, California, reported CNN.

In 2010, the global society was excited by the discovery of Gliese 581-g, which was referred to as being in a "Goldilocks" zone, not too hot, not too cold. It was widely believed this planet could theoretically be very similar to Earth and have life.

However, whether or not life is currently present or possible on any of these planets is hypothetical at this time.  Technology today does not afford the capability to test or know for sure, especially on planets so far away. The Gliese system is far closer to Earth than the newly discovered Kepler planets and even this one is currently out of reach.

Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f are fully described in a study in the journal Science. Kepler-69c, which was written in a separate study, was published in The Astrophysical Journal .

Tweet
More about this author: Leigh Goessl

From Around the Web




ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.cnn.com/2013/04/18/us/planet-discovery
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2417931,00.asp
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.helium.com/knowledge/410001-gliese-581g-is-first-earth-like-planet-discovered-by-astronomers
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2013/04/17/science.1234702
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/768/2/101