The Kepler telescope has been planet hunting since it’s launch in 2009 and has blown scientists away with the amount of planets it’s discovered so far.
According to NASA, the first planet ever to be discovered without the naked eye was Uranus in 1781 by famous astronomer, WIlliam Herschel. Pluto wasn’t discovered until 1930 and scientist today still believe there is a 10th, undiscovered planet in our solar system. It’s only recently the prospects of life on other planets in our galaxy have become part of mainstream science, before that it was assumed we were the only ones!
An ‘Exoplanet’ is simply a planet that orbits a star not present in our solar system. When Kepler launched in 2009, it focused its lens on a small patch of the night sky in the cygnus constellation that contains over 4 million stars in our galaxy. Kepler can’t actually see the planets directly, it can however detect the brightness of each star and when the brightness of that star dips, this is an indication that something, most likely a planet, is in orbit around it.
To the astonishment of astronomers, NASA have so far discovered 5017 possible candidates, 2337 have been confirmed as Exoplanets. A handful of these planets are orbiting their star in what’s known as ‘The Goldilocks Zone’, a zone around the star where temperatures are just write for liquid water to flow on a planet essential for life to develop. Out of these, 30 Exoplanets have been confirmed to be orbiting in this zone with 1000’s more still needing further analysis.
One planet discovered by the Kepler team in 2014 called, ‘kepler 701.04 62F’ is said to be a supersized Earth that could have a very similar terrain to ours and even host life, it’s so far the most likely candidate for a “Second Earth”. Research by NASA shows that planets come in two distinct size classes, ‘Earth & Super Earth Size Class’ & ‘Mini Neptune Class’.
It’s very possible some of these planets harbour life but remember, this is only in OUR galaxy & only accounts for a fraction of the number of stars in the Milky Way. There are billions of other galaxies with billions more stars just waiting to be discovered.
NASA How Many Earth size Planets Are In Our Galaxy?
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