Scientists have discovered a treasure trove of over 100 new worlds outside the solar system using data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, some of which have the possibility of hosting life.
Out of 197 initial planet candidates, scientists have confirmed 104 planets outside our solar system. Among the confirmed is a planetary system comprising four promising planets that could be rocky.
These four planets, all between 20 and 50% larger than Earth by diameter, are orbiting the M dwarf star K2-72, found 181 light-years away in the direction of the Aquarius constellation.
The host star is less than half the size of the Sun and less bright. The planets’ orbital periods range from five-and-a-half to 24 days, and two of them may experience irradiation levels from their star comparable to those on Earth.
Despite their tight orbits -- closer than Mercury’s orbit around our Sun -- the possibility that life could arise on a planet around such a star cannot be ruled out, said lead author Ian Crossfield, from the University of Arizona.
The researchers achieved this extraordinary “roundup” of exoplanets by combining data with follow-up observations by Earth-based telescopes including the North Gemini telescope and the W M Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the Automated Planet Finder of the University of California Observatories, and the Large Binocular Telescope operated by the University of Arizona.
Both Kepler and its K2 mission discover new planets by measuring the subtle dip in a star’s brightness caused by a planet passing in front of its star.
The findings were published in the Astrophysical Journal.