I have written a lot about exoplanets on this blog in the past, therefore this is a news I can’t avoid discussing here. Just two days ago NASA released an update on Kepler space telescope team, which added to the already impressive catalogue of planet candidates 219 brand-new objects, 10 of which are (1) Earth-size or close (2) orbiting in their parent star’s habitable zone.
“The Kepler data set is unique, as it is the only one containing a population of these near Earth-analogs – planets with roughly the same size and orbit as Earth. Understanding their frequency in the galaxy will help inform the design of future NASA missions to directly image another Earth.” (NASA Press Release, 19 June 2017)
To get a rough idea of the numbers we’re talking about here, have a look at the catalogue itself. You’ll find there a whopping 4,034 planet candidates identified by Kepler – 2,335 of which have been verified as exoplanets. Of roughly 50 near-Earth size habitable zone candidates detected by Kepler, more than 30 have been verified.
Moreover, “results using Kepler data suggest two distinct size groupings of small planets. Both results have significant implications for the search for life. The final Kepler catalog will serve as the foundation for more study to determine the prevalence and demographics of planets in the galaxy, while the discovery of the two distinct planetary populations shows that about half the planets we know of in the galaxy either have no surface, or lie beneath a deep, crushing atmosphere – an environment unlikely to host life.”
For the complete story of exoplanet discoveries, have a look at this amazing video from the official website.