SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— NASA scientists have identified a whopping 1,000 planets outside the solar system using data from the Kepler telescope, which has recorded thousands more potential planets in our galaxy.
Perhaps even more startling is that they’ve announced the discovery of eight new planets including three which exist in an inhabitable “Goldilocks” zone (not too hot, not too cold) that receives as much sunlight as Earth.READ MORE: SF Fire Crews Battle 2-Alarm House Fire In Nob Hill
Dr. Doug Caldwell was one of the Kepler Mission Instrument scientists and served as a co-investigator for the project. He said the significance here was that scientists had been searching for Earth-like planets for over four years and that they’re finally starting to close in on their initial goal.
In many ways we’ve come at this with the biased approach that assumes life would need similar requirements than humans in order to exist. However, Caldwell theorizes that it’s certainly possible that life out there doesn’t necessarily need what we need.
“One of the reasons that we assumed that it would be like our own is because that’s what we know what to look for. We know the conditions that life like us needs and so we know what kind of planets to look for where that could potentially exist.”
Caldwell went on to explain Kepler’s vetting process for potential planets.READ MORE: Rain Helps Wash Away Fears Of Another Devastating Wildfire For Santa Rosa Couple
“Kepler finds these transiting planets we call candidates, which are things that are pretty likely to be planets, but we’re not really sure about any individual ones. Kepler tells us how long that planet takes to go around its star (how long its year is) and how big it is.”
From there, the scientists try to find out more about the potential planet’s star. He said the better they know the size of the star, the better they know the size of the planet. That also can lead to more information about the temperature of the star, which gives an idea of how much energy the star gives off and how much energy the potential planet receives.
“We do additional measurements with big telescopes like Hubble Space Telescope to learn a lot more about the stars so we can say more about the planets themselves.”
Meanwhile, Kepler is still working with an eye towards the sky, observing different regions of the sky for about 80 days each. K2— as it’s called, is the second Kepler mission that should be going on for the next couple of years.MORE NEWS: Speed-Loving Los Gatos Teen Competing In Formula 4 US Championship In Texas
Caldwell said NASA is currently working on TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), which will be launched to search for these types of transiting planets that Kepler is finding but over the entire sky with the ability to find even more planets.