Kepler’s field of view The Kepler space telescope’s field of view,
facing slightly off-center from the core of the Milky Way.
NASA / Carter Roberts / Eastbay Astronomical Society

The raw data behind an Earth-like exoplanet

Posted By Jason Davis

2013/01/11 03:29 CST

Exoplanets are everywhere.

The news that came out of the American Astronomical Society meeting this week in Long Beach, Calif. is staggering. The team behind the Kepler space telescope has discovered 461 new exoplanet candidates, bringing the total to 2,740. Latest estimates now show that there may be as many as one planet for every star in the Milky Way — at least 100 billion planets.

Kepler quietly orbits the Sun in roughly the same orbit as Earth, unblinkingly recording the light coming from a particular patch of stars. Astronomers then sift through the data, looking for stars that have regular, predictable dips in their light, indicating an exoplanet might be passing in front of the star. They weed out false positives and make regular announcements of so-called planet candidates. The latest 461 candidates will require independent confirmation from other sources before they become bona fide exoplanets.

Four of the new candidates sit in the habitable zone around their stars, the not-too-hot, not-too-cold region where liquid water might exist on a planet’s surface. One of these planets orbits a star with an effective surface temperature of 5,886 degrees kelvin, very similar to our own Sun, which has a effective surface temperature of 5,778 degrees kelvin.

Read more: The raw data behind an Earth-like exoplanet | The Planetary Society.

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