NASA discovers 20 planets similar to Earth

Nasa's Kepler

In a research, scientists have identified that out of a trove of 4000 exoplanets discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission, 20 planets are rocky and might be habitable.

Stephen Kane, an associate professor at San Francisco State University said “This is the complete catalogue of all of the Kepler discoveries that are in the habitable zone of their host stars. That means we can focus in on the planets in this paper and perform follow-up studies to learn more about them, including if they are indeed habitable”.

From those 4000 exoplanets, Kane and his team identified 216 planets located within the ‘habitable zone’ of their star, where the conditions make it technically possible for liquid water to exist on the surface.

A list of the 20 best candidates have been released so that if ever in future NASA were to send its mission beyond our solar system, these 20 planets will be best places to get started.

The study was published in Astrophysical Journal highlighted how the habitable zone is identified, the boundaries of the habitable zone are critical. If a planet is too close to its star, it will experience a runaway greenhouse gas effect, like Venus. But if it is too far, any water will freeze, as is seen on Mars. The planets were sorted by whether they were in a conservative or a more optimistic interpretation of the habitable zone. Then they further sorted them by planet size: smaller, rocky planets versus larger gas giants and thus the list was formed.

“There are very limited resources available for studying the atmospheres of terrestrial planets and so the Habitable Zone is used to select those planets most likely to have liquid water on the surface. This will become increasingly important once new facilities, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, are deployed.” Said Kane.

Scientists are now studying these 20 planets more carefully to find Earth like compositions on the planet.

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