NASA’s Kepler telescope finds largest trove of exoplanets
NASA’s unmanned Kepler space observatory, which launched in 2009, has discovered the largest trove of exoplanets outside our solar system.
It has discovered total of 1,284 exoplanets, which is more than double the number of known exoplanets found with the Kepler space telescope.Of the new trove of 1,284, nearly 550 could be rocky planets like Earth, based on their size.
Nine of these orbit in their sun’s habitable zone, which means they can have surface temperatures that allow liquid water to pool.
So far NASA has discovered nearly 5,000 total planet candidates, of them more than 3,200 have been verified and 2,325 of these were discovered by Kepler.
- Exoplanet: An exoplanet or extrasolar planet is a planet that orbits a star other than the Sun.
- Goldilocks zone: The Goldilocks zone refers to a habitable zone around a star within which a planetary surface can support liquid water given sufficient atmospheric pressure.
Kepler space observatory
Kepler is a unmanned space observatory launched by NASA on March 7, 2009 to discover Earth-size planets orbiting other stars. It has been named after the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler.
Kepler's sole science instrument is a photometer that continually monitors the brightness of over 145,000 main sequence stars in a fixed field of view.
This data is transmitted to Earth, then analyzed to detect periodic dimming caused by exoplanets that cross in front of their host star. So far it has scanned nearly 150,000 stars for signs of orbiting bodies, particularly those that might be able to support life.
The observatory has been designed for a statistical mission and not to probe into the environmental conditions of planets that exist in the so-called Goldilocks zone of their stars.