8 new planets that might be capable of hosting life

During the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), they have announced a fascinating set of finds. Astronomers have discovered eight new exoplanets that may be capable of supporting life as we know it, including what they say are the two most Earthlike alien worlds yet found.

Artist concept of the newly discovered exoplanets. (Photo by NASA)

The Kepler Space Telescope made the discoveries, pushing the number of such exoplanets it has found to more than 1,000.
According to Fergal Mullaly of the SETI Institute and NASA’s Ames Research Center, these candidates represents the closest analogues to the Earth-sun system found to date, and that is what Kepler has been looking for.

“We are now closer than we have ever been to finding a twin for Earth around a star," says Fergal Mullally

While none of the eight is a true "alien Earth," two of them — known as Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b — they are the most comparable to the Earth size-wise of any exoplanets yet discovered(though both worlds orbit red dwarfs, stars that are smaller and dimmer than Earth's sun).

A planet's surface temperature is highly dependent on the composition and thickness of its atmosphere, and nothing is known about the air surrounding Kepler-438b, Kepler-442b or any of the other newfound worlds.

Kepler-442b is about one-third larger than Earth with a 60% chance of being rocky. Scientists give it a 97% chance of being in the habitable zone, but caution that the estimates aren't certain.

Kepler-438b's diameter is 12% bigger than Earth and has a 70% chance of being rocky, which means the surface of the planet appears to be like Earth's.

Kepler's mission is to determine how common Earthlike planets are in the galaxy. So far, astronomers' best guesses suggest that roughly 20 percent of sun like stars host Earth-size planets in their habitable zones.

This artist's conception depicts an Earth-like planet orbiting an evolved star
that has formed a stunning "planetary nebula."

"Most of these planets have a good chance of being rocky, like Earth. All we can say is that they're promising candidates." lead author Guillermo Torres of the CfA said in a release.

The $600 million Kepler mission launched in March 2009 to determine how common Earthlike planets are throughout the Milky Way galaxy. A glitch ended the spacecraft's original planet hunt in May 2013, but researchers are still combing through Kepler's huge database.

As intriguing as these two worlds are, there's no guarantee that either of them could actually host life.

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8 new planets that might be capable of hosting life 8 new planets that might be capable of hosting life Reviewed by TrendSpot on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 Rating: 5

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