Kepler mission finds three new exoplanets that may be able to support life
We’ve all grown pretty attached to Earth over the past several millennia, but there’s no harm in looking around for other prospective planets in case ours is swallowed by the Sun or split in half by errant asteroids.
NASA’s Kepler mission has been doing exactly that. According to NASA, astronomers have found three planets within two separate systems that reside within the habitable zone, which NASA describes as "the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.” NASA considers these three planets to be "super-Earths", and are between 40 percent and 70 percent larger than our planet.
The first system, Kepler-62, contains five planets, two of which could potentially sustain water; the other system, Kepler-69, contains just one. There is not much else NASA astronomers about the makeup of the planets—only their distance from the older, cooler star they orbit. If anything, it helps bolster the hypothesis that Earth-like planets are fairly common. This latest finding follows the discovery of a tiny exoplanet back earlier this year.
The Kepler mission has been decades in the making, and while active, scientists have found nearly 3000 exoplanet candidates that might be habitable, 122 of which have since been confirmed as planets.
As we search for more planets that may be capable of harboring life, each discovery is more significant than the last. Who knows? Maybe someday, finding another "Earth" might not be science fiction after all.