Exoplanet Current Affairs

NASA’s Kepler Telescope finds 10 Earth-Like Planets

NASA’s Kepler Telescope has identified 10 Earth-like planets outside the solar system that are expected to host life due to their right size and temperature. This finding is a boost  in the hope for life elsewhere.

Exoplanet: It is a planet that does not orbit the Sun and instead orbits a different star, stellar remnant, or brown dwarf. It is also termed as extrasolar planet.

After an extensive search carried out for four years, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has detected a total of 49 planets in the Goldilocks zone. This number is set to increase as Kepler telescope has so far looked only in one quarter of one percent of a galaxy that holds about 200 billion of stars.

Goldilocks Zone refers to a habitable zone where the temperature is neither too high nor too low.

NASA has announced the discovery of 10 planets as a part of 219 new planets identified by the Kepler telescope as part of the final batch of planets since Kepler was launched in 2009. Kepler’s main mission got ended in 2013 after two of its four wheels that control its orientation in space got failed.

Kepler has identified more than 4,000 planet candidates and confirmed more than half of them. The number of potentially habitable planets could be lot more as Kepler was only able to identify only those planets that move between the telescope vision and its star.

By using Kepler and other methods, scientists have discovered around 3,600 exoplanets and about 62 potentially habitable planets.

With the launch of James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by NASA in 2018, chances of studying planets and detecting a familiar atmosphere will increase manifold. JWST will succeed the Hubble space telescope.

Kepler Space Telescope

Kepler Space Telescope (KST) is an unmanned space observatory launched in 2009 by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It is tasked with determining how many Earth-like planets occur throughout the Milky Way galaxy. It has been designed for a statistical mission and not to probe into the environmental conditions of planets that exist in the so-called Goldilocks zone (Habitable zone) of their stars.

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Fact Box: Hottest Known Planet in Universe

Scientists have discovered the hottest known exoplanet, designated KELT-9b which is warmer than most stars in the universe. The study has been published in the journal Nature.

Exoplanet is a planet that does not orbit the Sun and instead orbits a different star, stellar remnant, or brown dwarf. They are also called as extrasolar planet.

Salient Highlights

  • The planet orbits a massive star KELT-9 every day and a half.
  • The planet’s day-side temperature is 4,326 degree Celsius and is only 926 degree Celsius cooler than the Sun.
  • The planet is located 650 light years from Earth and sports a giant, glowing gas tail like a comet.
  • The ultraviolet radiation experienced by the planet from its star KELT-9 is so fierce that the planet may be evaporating producing a glowing gas tail.
  • The Jupiter-like planet is 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter. However, it is only half as dense as that of the Jupiter.
  • Due to extreme radiation from its host star the atmosphere of the planet has puffed up like a balloon. It has been classified as a planet by considering its mass but its atmosphere is not similar to any other known planet.
  • Due to the bombardment of stellar radiation, the planet is very hot so much so that the  molecules such as water, carbon dioxide and methane can not form there.

Background

The first planet outside our solar system was found out in 1995. With the help of NASA’s Kepler telescope, the discovery of planets has become easier. So far, astronomers have identified 52 potentially habitable planets and around 3,600 planets outside our solar system. With the launch of James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by NASA in 2018, chances of studying planets and detecting a familiar atmosphere will increase manifold. JWST will succeed the Hubble space telescope.

 

 

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