One small step in the search for Earth-like planets

The search for earth-like planets

The Kepler space telescope was launched by NASA in 2009. The telescope was intended to be used to discover earth like plants that are orbiting Sun like stars.

The Kepler space telescope has discovered thousands of planets since it’s launch. By documenting transit events, the Kepler telescope has developed hundreds of thousands of stars and planets. A transit event occurs when a planet’s orbit passes between it’s star and the telescope. Due to the planet blocking some of it’s starts light, the telescope could categorise the size and livability of the planet by measuring the amount of light that escapes the blocking of the planet.

Eric Ford, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, is one of the leaders of the research team. Ford said:”We want to use those discoveries to improve our understanding of planet formation and to plan future missions to search for planets that might be habitable. However, simply counting exoplanets of a given size or orbital distance is misleading, since it’s much harder to find small planets far from their star than to find large planets close to their star.”

Danley Hsu, a graduate student at Penn State and contributor of the paper, said:”We used the final catalogue of planets identified by Kepler and improved star properties from the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft to build our simulations…By comparing the results to the planets catalogued by Kepler, we characterised the rate of planets per star and how that depends on planet size and orbital distance. Our novel approach allowed the team to account for several effects that have not been included in previous studies.”

Ford continued:”Scientists are particularly interested in searching for biomarkers–molecules indicative of life–in the atmospheres of roughly Earth-size planets that orbit in the ‘habitable-zone’ of Sun-like stars…The habitable zone is a range of orbital distances at which the planets could support liquid water on their surfaces. Searching for evidence of life on Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of sun-like stars will require a large new space mission.”

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