Eight More Potentially Habitable Planets Identified

Astronomers have identified eight new planets which could be contenders for supporting life. These planets exist in the region around a star known as the […]

Astronomers have identified eight new planets which could be contenders for supporting life.

These planets exist in the region around a star known as the ‘Golidlocks’ zone, where the right amount of sunlight reaches the surface allowing liquid water to be present.

These findings by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, led by Guillermo Torres, double the number of small planets known to exist in their habitable zone, and most of these are thought to be rocky, like the Earth.

Two of these, Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b, have been identified as particularly “Earth like”. Kepler-438b has a radius 12 per cent larger than the Earth’s, and receives 40 per cent more sunlight; Kepler 442b is one third larger than the Earth, and gets about 60 per cent less light compared to the Earth.

“We don’t know for sure whether any of the planets in our sample are truly habitable,” co-author David Kipping said, but added that they are promising contenders.

Observing these planets are challenging: Kepler-438b is 470 light years away from Earth, and Kepler-422b is 1100 light years away. The planets were first observed by NASA’s Kepler Mission, and although their masses are too small for exact identification, a statistical computer program was used to evaluate the likelihood that there are indeed planets.

Some of the newly identified stars are also found to be in multiple star systems, although the companion stars do not seem to influence the orbit of these planets.

Helen Ashcroft

About Helen Ashcroft

Helen is studying for her DPhil in Earth Sciences.