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Kepler - NASA Habitable Planets

7 Planets found in habitable zones of other Solar Systems

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Yesterday was a big day for Space Exploration with the announcements on NASA TV by the Kepler’s Scientific team, NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field. Kepler Mission is NASA’s effort to discover Earth-size planets in a habitable zone in a specific regions of the Milky Way. The way that Kepler works in simple terms is by measuring the planets’ transit in front of the Sun-star. Using that method it has detected 2,740 candidates and using various analysis methods and other means of verifications (like ground telescopes), 122 planets were confirmed.

NASA announced yesterday that Kepler’s mission has discovered two new planetary Systems (Kepler 62 and Kepler 69) that include planets of Super-Earth size (planets larger than Earth but functioning similar to Earth) that orbit in the habitable zone of the respective solar systems. For a planet to be in a habitable zone (like Earth for example), it means that there are great possibilities to have liquid water, atmosphere and life forms.

Of course the term ‘habitable’ zone is not an absolute term but under study since all the information that we have about ‘habitable’ zones are from our own solar system, which means that there may be habitable conditions different than ours and we just do not know about it.

The Kepler 62 system has a Sun smaller and cooler than our Sun and one of the candidate planets is about 40% larger than Earth making it the first planet that is close to Earth’s size. The second candidate planet on the same system is about 60% larger than Earth. A total of five candidate planets were found on this system.

The Kepler 69 system has a sun which is similar to our Sun (93% of its size) and is approximately 2,700 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus. One of the candidate planets (out of two) on that star system is about 70% larger than Earth with a cycle around the Sun of 242 days.

In order to identify if there are living forms on the planets discovered we would need better telescopes that would be able to block the light of the Sun-star and penetrate the atmosphere in order to detect life signatures – something that is very difficult to be done at the moment.

So even if we do not know if life exists on those planets, we do know that it is a big step in finding habitable planets and possibly other civilizations in our Galaxy. Well done to the Kepler team!

By John Black

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