The Possibility for Extraterrestrial Life Just Increased
Science| | By Lauren Boudreau
The NASA Kepler space mission made an exciting announcement Tuesday when they revealed 1,284 new planets have been discovered outside our solar system. “This announcement more than doubles the number of confirmed planets from Kepler,” Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA headquarters, said in a press release. “This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth.” In July 2015, the Kepler telescope identified 4,302 potential planets, but of those, 1,284 met the minimum requirement of being actual planets. NASA says that an additional 1,327 are “more likely than not” to be planets, but they require additional study. Of the 1,284 planets, 550 are likely to be rocky like Earth and nine could potentially support life based on the fact that they are the proper distance away from a star where temperatures could allow water to pool. “They say not to count our chickens before they’re hatched, but that’s exactly what these results allow us to do based on probabilities that each egg (candidate) will hatch into a chick (bona fide planet),” said Natalie Batalha, co-author of the paper and Kepler mission scientist. To date, NASA has found nearly 5,000 planet candidates, and now more than 3,200 have been verified. The search for life is far from over though. There are still many planets waiting to be discovered and many areas left unexplored. In 2018, NASA will explore another 200,000 nearby stars using the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which will use the same method Kepler used. Perhaps just one of these planets could contain intelligent life. You never know.