Nearly 100 Earth-like 'exoplanets' found outside our solar system


The number of exoplanets has risen by nearly 100, as an worldwide team of astronomers confirms a new batch found in data captured as part of the K2 mission - the NASA Kepler telescope's new lease on life.

There are 95 additions to the ever-growing list of exoplanets, as researchers analyzing data collected by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope discovered them scattered around our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

The study was done by an global team led by Andrew Mayo from the National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark.

The first data from the K2 was released in 2014, with the latest findings released in a paper published in the Astronomical Journal.

Mr Mayo said: "We found that some of the signals were caused by multiple star systems or noise from the spacecraft".

As of today as many as 3,600 exoplanets have been found, ranging from rocky Earth-sized planets to large gas giants like Jupiter. However, in 2013, Kepler telescope lost his ability to detect exoplanets citing its issue with maintaining the course while focusing on these planets due to a mechanical failure. A method was figured out by astronomers and engineers to re-purpose and save the space telescope by changing its field of view periodically.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is scheduled for a Spring launch and will search about 90% of the sky during its mission. Reports suggest that so far both Kepler and K2 missions have discovered over 5,100 exoplanet candidates, which now the scientists are analysing.

NASA's Kepler mission was launched back in 2009 to discover the exoplanets outside our solar system.

One of the planets discovered by the astronomers was found orbiting a very luminous star dubbed HD 212657. K2 mission captures target and analyzes the dip in light registered which could happen because of the shadow cast by planets on their starts. But since the dips in light can have other causes too, all such candidates identified by Kepler need to be tested using other means to validate whether they are in fact exoplanets or something else.

Indeed, 149 of the signals turned out to be caused by bona fide exoplanets, 95 of which are new discoveries.

Exoplanets are those planets which revolve and orbit around their host star outside the solar system. That includes finding rocky Earth-sized planets that might be capable of supporting life. These 100 new planets add to the almost 3600 exoplanets that have been discovered since the first planet orbiting a star similar to our own was discovered back in 1995. "Planets around bright stars are important because astronomers can learn a lot about them from ground based observatories".

"The original Kepler mission was our first glimpse into the incredible abundance and diversity of exoplanets in the Galaxy", Mayo said.

Before the latest AI-guided results, 'Kepler 90 was tied with Trappist-1, with 7 planets each, ' says Jessie Dotson, Kepler project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

Between them, the Kepler and K2 missions have been used to find over 5,100 candidate exoplanets to date.