NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers 100 New Exoplanets

Posted: Feb 18 2018, 3:03pm CST | by , Updated: Feb 18 2018, 3:05pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers 100 New Exoplanets
Credit: ESA/Hubble/ESO/M. Kornmesser

The new discovery brings the total number of exoplanets found with the K2 mission up to almost 300

NASA’s extended planet-hunting mission has made another significant discovery. The mission, known as K2, has revealed the existence of 100 previosuly unknown exoplanets. With this discovery, there are now almost 300 new exoplanets identified by Kepler/K2.

“We started out analyzing 275 candidates, of which 149 were validated as real exoplanets. In turn, 95 of these planets have proved to be new discoveries," said Andrew Mayo from National Space Institute (DTU Space) at the Technical University of Denmark. "This research has been underway since the first K2 data release in 2014."

Of the nearly 100 new exoplanets, one circles a very bright star and completes an orbit around star in 10 days. This is the brightest star found by either the Kepler or K2 missions with a planet.

“Planets around bright stars are important because astronomers can learn a lot about them from ground-based observatories.” Mayo said.

NASA’s Kepler is the most successful planet-hunting telescope to date. The mission was launched in 2009 and went on to find more than 2,300 planets outside of our solar system. After the mechanical failure in 2013, the mission was repurposed as K2 and it now performs high-precision photometry of selected fields.

Kepler identifies potential planets around other stars by looking at the dips in the brightness of the stars. The dips in light are caused by the shadow of an exoplanet as it crosses in front of its host star. These signals are then examined more closely to determine which are created by exoplanets and which were caused by 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.

Since the discovery of the first planets outside our solar system more than two decades ago, nearly 5,000 total planet candidates have been found. Of which, more than 3,200 now have been verified as exoplanets and 2,300 of these were discovered by Kepler.

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