Key Facts about the February 2011 Kepler Mission Discovery
News about the discovery of new exoplanets went abuzz on February 2, 2011, when the NASA Kepler Team released the results from the data of the observations conducted by the Kepler spacecraft between May 12 and September 17, 2009. According to the results from the data, the Kepler spacecraft found more than 1,000 planetary candidates orbiting 997 stars. The planetary candidates discovered are twice the number of the currently known exoplanets. Here are some key facts about this latest Kepler Mission discovery:
Of the 1,235 planetary candidates identified by the Kepler telescope:
68 planetary candidates are as large as Earth
- 165 planetary candidates are as big as Jupiter and 19 planets are larger than Jupiter
- 662 are as large as Neptune
- Around 288 are Super Earth-like planetary candidates
(Please see the image on your right to get a clear view of the number of planetary candidates)
The data released by the Kepler team also revealed 54 new planet candidates found in the habitable zone, i.e. a zone on the planetary system where the Earth-like planet has the capability to maintain liquid water and possibly support Earth-like life. Of the 54 Earth-like planets in the habitable zone:
- 49 are twice the size of our planet, and some are larger than Jupiter
- 5 are Earth-like planetary candidates.
Some of the planetary candidates discovered in the habitable zone may have moons with liquid water.
(Image, Top-Left - In the illustration, all 1235 Kepler planet candidates are shown in transit with their stars. All planets are ordered according to their size. You will also see some of the stars with more than one planet in transit. Please click on the picture to get a clear view of them.)