Habitable planet

An artist’s concept of a habitable planet outside our solar system.

An International team of scientists using the Kepler Space Telescope has found 20 more planets outside our solar system that could be habitable.

The latest discoveries bring to 50 the number of exoplanets that could potentially support life. One planet in particular piques scientists’ interest. Quartz reports:

One of the most interesting of these new planets for a potential Interstellar-style space mission, according Jeff Coughlin, a Kepler team lead and co-author of the paper, is KOI-7923.01. “If you had to choose one to send a spacecraft to, it’s not a bad option,” Coughlin told the New Scientist. The planet is 97% the size of Earth, has an orbit of 395 of our days, and is likely covered by a cold tundra—though not so cold that it can’t support life.

However, Coughlin did stress that more observations are necessary. The hobbled Kepler and the longer orbits of this set of planets means the telescope was only able to observe the transits (when a planetary body passes in front of its star) once or twice.

And though he told the New Scientist he and his team are 70-80% certain of the credibility of these candidates, the necessary next step is to point ground-based instruments or the Hubble telescope at them for final confirmation.

The exoplanets aren’t the only discoveries from Kepler. Scientists have also studied another sun-like star’s internal dynamo. As Forbes reports:

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has made the most comprehensive-ever observations of another sun-like star’s internal dynamo, say researchers. Observations of the star HD 173701 are being hailed by the observing team as a veritable Rosetta Stone of its stellar dynamo — proving that our Sun’s own solar cycles are not unique in the galaxy.

In a paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal, the authors note that their analysis also reveals that HD 173701 is almost identical to the Sun with respect to radius, mass and age. But crucially, it has a metallicity that is twice as high as our own star.

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