Goldilocks Zone 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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LHS 1140b: Another planet in habitable zone discovered

Astronomers have discovered yet another planet, called LHS1140b, which is expected to be present in the Goldilocks Zone. It’s not so far away, either. It is found orbiting around the star LHS 1140 some 39 light-years away.

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

The planet is found to be rocky, like the Earth but is over six-times as massive as Earth and about 1.5-times larger and falls under the category of ‘Super Earth’. Its gravitational pull will be three times stronger than that of the Earth. Rocky planets within the habitable zone are the best candidates to find evidence of some form of life.

Super Earth: These are planets that are bigger and more massive than Earth and yet smaller and less massive than the next biggest planet, Neptune.

The very close location of the planet will make it easier for the astronomers to study its atmosphere and look for signs of life in the near-future. The study of a planet’s atmosphere is vital to look for signs of life. If the atmosphere is found to be thick and filled with carbon dioxide, like Venus, then it can be concluded that it would be too hot to hold life or water. On the other hand, if the atmosphere is too thin and wispy like Mars, then all the water will get locked up as ice.

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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