Kepler data reveals nearly 100 new exoplanets

Gwen Vasquez
February 18, 2018

But mission managers figured out a way to stabilize Kepler using sunlight pressure, and the spacecraft soon embarked on its K2 mission, which involves exoplanet hunting on a more limited basis, as well as observing comets and asteroids in our own solar system, supernovas and a range of other objects and phenomena.

These most recent exoplanets were spotted using Nasa's Kepler space telescope, now in orbit around the Earth. An global team led by Andrew Mayo from the National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark took a closer look at 275 exoplanet candidates, validating 149 of them. Jessie Christiansen, an astronomer at NASA's Exoplanet Archive was quoted in a media report saying, "There are no surprises, per se, but it's a great new haul of planets, and plenty of fodder for exploring the individual systems within the catalog". It is hard to distinguish between signals coming from exoplanets and those that are not, as signals can be caused by multiple star systems, spacecraft noise or other sources.

'We found that some of the signals were caused by multiple star systems or noise from the spacecraft. "But we also detected planets that range from sub-Earth-sized to the size of Jupiter and larger", Mayo said.

The space-based Kepler telescope may have been hobbled by a mechanical failure in 2013, but it continues to gather data about the potential for Earth-size planets orbiting distant stars. The scientists, however, discovered a new way to utilise it by changing its field of view periodically. K2 mission captures target and analyzes the dip in light registered which could happen because of the shadow cast by planets on their starts.

The dips are indications of exoplanets, which must then be examined more closely in order to confirm their nature. Recently, the first discovery of planets outside the Milky Way was made in a galaxy about 3.8 billion light-years away.

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Mayo and his team are understandably excited about the discovery of these 100 new planets and their implications for the future of the field. K2 mission along with other spacecraft and observatories on Earth facilitate by providing a clear picture about the exoplanets in your galaxy as well as its nature and other details.

One of the planets detected was orbiting a bright star. The discovery was deemed significant because the bright star enables the planets to be observed from "ground-based observatories".

The latest study follows news in December that the Kepler probe had found an eighth planet in a distant star system called Kepler 90.

The new planet, estimated to be about 30 percent larger than Earth, is 'not a place you'd like to visit, ' said Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Texas, Austin. Most star systems involve blazingly hot and massive gas giants that sit uncomfortably close to their host stars, or binary star systems in which complex gravitational effects make it hard for planets to form.

Astronomers may be able to even glean information about its atmosphere, as they have done for TRAPPIST-1 planets.

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