Researchers analyzing data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope have pinpointed 20 planets that could potentially be habitable and host life.
The analysis found a treasure trove of planets that orbit sun-like stars, including KOI-7923.01, which is equal to 97 percent of Earth’s size. The exoplanet, which orbits its star in 395 days, is colder than Earth because it is farther from its parent star, which also happens to be cooler than the sun.
The finding implies that the exoplanet has more areas similar to Earth’s tundra regions than its temperate zones. However, in spite of being on the colder side, KOI-7923.01 is warm and big enough to support liquid water that is crucial to host life.
Earlier, Kepler mission scientists had revealed the clearest catalog created of probable planets in the Milky Way that brought up the total number to 4,034, 2,300 of which have been confirmed as planets.
The researchers further added that 219 of the total candidates are new entries into the catalog that were detected earlier this year. Furthermore, two of the recent candidates, referred to as KOI-82.06 and KOI-2926.05, are multi-planet systems, and 10 are terrestrial-size, high-reliability habitable zone candidates.
The find also included 30 terrestrial-size planets that are located in the Goldilocks Zone or the habitable zone of their parent star. Now with the recent observations, the number of probable terrestrial-sized candidates located in their star's habitable zones has gone up to 50, with more than 30 confirmed as exoplanets.
A new tool called the Robovetter, which automatically analyzes Kepler discoveries, was used to create the catalog that represents Kepler's final survey from the Cygnus constellation, spanning the spacecraft's first four years of data.
Incidentally, the nearest candidate to Earth is a world referred to as K77-11, which receives the same energy amount from its star as the Earth does from the sun. The celestial body is only a bit bigger than our planet, at 1.3 Earth radii.
Two Categories Of Small Planets Could Help Detect Aliens
Apart from new exoplanet candidates, scientists have also detected a significant distinction between the small planets that can help in searching for alien life in the future. The small planets can be categorized into gaseous worlds smaller than Neptune and rocky planets that are the size of Earth.
"This new result presented today has implications for understanding the frequency of different types of planets and galaxies, and helping us to advance our knowledge on how planets are formed," said Mario Perez, Kepler program scientist at NASA.