NASA’s Kepler space telescope hit a major milestone on Tuesday, January 6. It was announced at the annual winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle that Kepler has now identified more than 1,000 exoplanets and more than 4,000 planet candidates.
Scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics analyzing Kepler’s data recently discovered eight potentially habitable alien planets. The Telegraph explains that “The new worlds double the number of small exo-planets believed to be circling their stars in the ‘Goldilocks zone’ – neither too hot, nor too cold, where water would not evaporate or freeze.” Dr. Guillermo Torresthe, the study’s lead scientist, explains, “Most of these planets have a good chance of being rocky, like Earth.”
The Telegraph points out that, of these eight planets that could potentially sustain life as we know it, the two most like Earth, Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b, “orbit red dwarf stars that are smaller and cooler than the Sun.”
Study co-author, Dr. David Kipping, cautiously explains, “We don’t know for sure whether any of the planets in our sample are truly habitable. All we can say is that they’re promising candidates.”