Space researchers may have found new planets that promise to be habitable and support life, and these are just 470 light-years away from our solar system. These new exoplanets were discovered by the Kepler space telescope, and they have been branded Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b; and according to science boffins, these might be the planets they have been looking for to sustain extraterrestrial life.
According to SETI boffin Fergal Mullally of the Ames campus, “Kepler collected data for four years – long enough that we can now tease out the Earth-size candidates in one Earth-year orbits. We’re closer than we’ve ever been to finding Earth twins around other sun-like stars. These are the planets we’re looking for.”
Published in the Astrophysical Journal, six other planets that look much like Earth were also discovered by the space telescope, but both tagged ones are considered most promising. Both exoplanets orbit red dwarf stars that are considerably smaller and less hot than our sun; making Kepler-438b to have only 35 Earth days for its own year, while Kepler-442b has 112 days for its own unique year. Kepler-438b is believed to be 70% rocky with a diameter that is just 12% bigger than Earth, and Kepler-442b could have 60% rocks but is just one-third larger than Earth.
Lying just 470 light-years away in our solar system, the Kepler-438b has 70% chance of containing liquid water existing on its surface and it gets only about 40% heat from its own red sun than the Earth acquires from Sol. Kepler-442b is farther off at 1,100 light-years away, and it is considered to have a 97% possibility of retaining water on its surface, and almost about two-third light as Earth.
Both Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b orbit stars smaller and cooler than our sun, making the habitable zone closer to their parent star, in the direction of the constellation Lyra.
“Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler mission’s treasure trove of data takes us another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “The Kepler team and its science community continue to produce impressive results with the data from this venerable explorer.”
David Kipping, an astroboffin states that “We don’t know for sure whether any of the planets in our sample are truly habitable. All we can say is that they’re promising candidates.”
And the reason for this uncertainty is because space researchers believe all of the planets were too small to confirm by measuring their masses. Instead, the team validated them by using a computer program called BLENDER to determine that they are statistically likely to be planets. BLENDER runs on the Pleiades supercomputer at NASA Ames. This is the same method that has been used previously to validate some of Kepler’s most iconic finds, including the first two Earth-size planets around a Sun-like star and the first exoplanet smaller than Mercury.