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The South Florida spaceplanetary community got news for cheering about: The Kepler mission is making science fiction a reality. In a single year, they spotted 235 thousand candidates for confirmation as planets. Of these, sixty-eight measure the same as Earth, fifty-four could harbor life and five are the Earth size. Add a new Solar system-like discovery with six planets orbiting a star.
Barriers are Breaking down: The results reported at a NASA press conference on Wednesday were based on observations by probing made from May through September 2009, in which 150,000 stars were observed, the equivalent to one fourth the sky. William Borucki, at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, said, "That we found so many candidates for planets in so little of the sky, suggests that there are countless planets orbiting Sun-like stars in our galaxy.” He added, “We went from zero to sixty-eight planet candidate Earth size and from zero to fifty-four candidates in the habitable zone; they could have moons with liquid water.”
The fifty-four are in the "habitable zone," where liquid water could exist on the planetary surface, thereby increasing the life possibilities in all its forms. Furthermore, theirs compositions are so varied that some have a density as light as Styrofoam and others are similar to iron. The Earth density is between these ranges. Of The 235 thousand potential candidates, sixty-eight could measure the same as our planet; 288 would be super-Earth; 662 would measure the same as Neptune; 165 same as Jupiter, and 19 would exceed the jovial planet size. All the data has to be reanalyzed and verified by scientists at NASA.
Charles Bolden from NASA said, “These conclusions underscore the importance of Space Agency's science missions, which systematically increase our understanding of our place in the cosmos." Before the Keplers announcement on Wednesday, the number of planets outside the solar system, known as exoplanets, was 519. That means that Kepler could triple the known planets number. Launched in 2009, the telescope has been orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars; it has conducted a global survey, looking for planets similar to Earth all year. It has discovered many planets much smaller than Jupiter, the largest of our solar system, and giant planets, totaling 15 new mega planets.
Kepler is providing one-hundred times more information than before. It is discovering a variability of stars that had never been analyzed, like planets as small as they had never been imagined,” said Mr. Borucki, the principal investigator for the Kepler mission. More than two-hundred celestial bodies have not yet been confirmed as planets, but Borucki estimated that most of them will qualify. He went on, “In one generation we went from the idea of alien planets as a pillar of science fiction to present, when Kepler has helped make science fiction a reality.
Step by step. Debra Fischer, expert on exoplanets at Yale University, not a Kepler team member, but an external consultant for NASA, said the new information “gives us a much firmer basis, hoping to discover life in other worlds.” “I feel better now knowing these new Kepler results than a week ago,” she said. All Kepler research stars are in our galaxy, but are so far that traveling to them is not realistic. It would take us a million years to reach them with our current technology. What excites astronomers is that the more planets there are, with the right conditions, the greater the chances of life existing in other worlds.