NASA is set to make an important announcement about a new discovery made by the Kepler space telescope, which has been searching for alien worlds since 2009.
The U.S. space agency will hold the news conference on Thursday, Dec. 14, and the scientists who have been studying the planets found by Kepler will make the announcement, which could possibly be about life beyond Earth.
"NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 14, to announce the latest discovery made by its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope," NASA said in its media advisory. "The discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analyzing Kepler data."
Kepler Space Telescope
Kepler was launched in March 2009 to discover Earth-size planets that orbit other stars. It was named after astronomer Johannes Kepler.
Prior to its launch, astronomers did not know how common planets were beyond the solar system but the observatory has since helped scientists identify more than 2,500 planets and 2,000 planetary candidates that still need further investigations. With data gathered by Kepler, astronomers now believe that there is likely at least one planet that orbits every star in the heavens.
Potentially Habitable Worlds
The space observatory, the most accomplished planet-hunter in history, has already found several planets orbiting their star in the so-called Goldilocks Zone, where it is neither too hot nor too cold to allow liquid water to flow.
The proximity of planet Earth from the sun is believed to be one of the reasons it can support life.
Earth lies in the Goldilocks zone allowing it to support liquid water, which is known to be a key ingredient for life.
Astronomers have been searching for rocky planets like the Earth in the Goldilocks zone of other stars in the universe to find worlds that can support extraterrestrial life. The announcement on Dec. 14 may be related to one of those planets.
"There is now clear evidence for substantial numbers of three types of exoplanets; gas giants, hot-super-Earths in short period orbits, and ice giants," NASA said about Kepler's mission. "The challenge now is to find terrestrial planets (i.e., those one half to twice the size of the Earth), especially those in the habitable zone of their stars where liquid water might exist on the surface of the planet."
Last month, scientists analyzing Kepler data found 20 planets that may potentially host life. The space observatory has also discovered Earth's potential twin, KOI 7711.01, which is only slightly bigger than our home planet and receives the same amount of light that Earth gets from the sun.