WASHINGTON: NASA’s planethunting telescope has found 10 new planets outside our solar system that are likely the right size and temperature to potentially have life on them, broadly hinting that we are probably not alone.
Seven of the 10 newfound Earth-size planets circle stars that are just like ours, not cool dwarf ones that require a planet be quite close to its star for the right temperature. That doesn’t mean the planets have life, but some of the most basic requirements that life needs are there, upping the chances for life.
“Are we alone? Maybe Kepler today has told us indirectly, although we need confirmation, that we are probably not alone,” Kepler scientist Mario Perez said.
Outside scientists agreed that this is a boost in the hope for life elsewhere.
“It implies that Earth-size planets in the habitable zone around sun-like stars are not rare,” Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, who was not part of the work, said in an email.
The 10 Goldilocks planets are part of 219 new candidate planets that NASA announced Monday as part of the final batch of planets discovered in the main mission since the telescope was launched in 2009. It was designed to survey part of the galaxy to see how frequent planets are and how frequent Earth-size and potentially habitable planets are. Kepler’s main mission ended in 2013 after the failure of two of its four wheels that control its orientation in space.
It’s too early to know how common potentially habitable planets are in the galaxy because there are lots of factors to consider including that Kepler could only see planets that move between the telescope vision and its star, said scientist Susan Mullally.