NASA’s planet-hunting telescope called Kepler, which was launched in 2009, has recently discovered 10 new planets outside our solar system that look to be the right size and temperature to sustain life, according to a recent article in the Wisconsin State Journal.
During a four-year period of searching, the telescope detected a total of 49 planets in what scientists call the “Goldilocks zone.” This is an area of space in which a planet is just the right distance from its home star so that its surface is in the correct temperature range to sustain life. NASA’s Kepler has only investigated one quarter of one percent of the galaxy, which holds about 200 billion stars.
Seven of the 10 planets that Kepler found circle stars that are similar to the Sun. While this doesn't mean the planets have life, they do meet some of the requirements necessary for life to be a possibility on them.
Mario Perez, a Kepler program scientist in the Astrophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in a recent news conference, “are we alone? Maybe Kepler today has told us indirectly, although we need confirmation, that we are probably not alone.”
And other scientists agree. Avi Loeb, a Harvard astronomer who was not part of the project, said in an email, “it implies that Earth-size planets in the habitable zone around sun-like stars are not rare.”
However, Susan Mullaly, a Kepler research scientist of the SETI Institute in California, stated that it’s too early to know if potentially-habitable planets are common in the galaxy.
Kepler was designed to answer this question by surveying part of the galaxy to determine the frequency of Earth-like planets. Unfortunately, due to the failure of two of its four wheels controlling its orientation in space, Kepler’s main mission ended in 2013. Because of Kepler’s restricted movement, it only sees planets that move between the telescope's vision and its star.
[Source: Wisconsin State Journal]