Scientists have discovered nearly 100 new ‘exoplanets’ in the search for Earth-like planets that could support life.
It’s a major breakthrough that reveals new planets that range in size from smaller than Earth to celestial bodies even bigger than Jupiter.
The findings were made by a team of international colleagues from the University of Denmark, NASA, the University of Tokyo and others.
Researchers studied information from the K2 Kepler telescope mission, which aims to track down new exoplanets across the universe.
Exoplanets are planets found outside of our solar system, the Milky Way, that orbit a star – just like how Earth orbits the Sun.
To find these, scientists use a space telescope to track dips in light caused by the shadow of an exoplanet crossing in front of its host star.
Lead author Andrew Mayo, who works at the National Space Insititute, has presented the findings in the Astronomical Journal, and revealed that he had been working on the project since the first K2 data release back in 2014.
“We started out analysing 275 candidates of which 149 were validated as real exoplanets.
“In turn 95 of these planets have been proved to be new discoveries.”
The original Kepler spacecraft launched back in 2009, questing for exoplanets in a small patch of sky.
But a mechanical failure crippled the telescope in 2013, paving the way for a follow-up K2 mission that’s proving much more successful.
It allowed researchers to uncover a new field of exoplanets, raising hopes for the prospect of life beyond earth.
The goal is to eventually track down exoplanets that are rocky, habitable, Earth-sized planets that could be capable of supporting life.
“Exoplanets are a very exciting field of space science. As more planets are discovered, astronomers will develop a much better picture of the nature of exoplanets, which in turn will allow us to place our own solar system into a galactic context.”
Mayo says they “detected planets that range from sub Earth-sized to the size of Jupiter and larger”.