The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) discovered nearly 100 new planets outside our solar system. Researchers studied the information from NASA’s K2 Kepler telescope mission, which aims to track down new exoplanets across the universe. K2 mission is the current focus of the Kepler spacecraft and it has revealed 95 new planets. It is a great news for astronomy savvies to figure out what planets beyond our solar system might be like. Jessie Christiansen, an astronomer at NASA’s Exoplanet Archive was quoted in a media report saying, “There are no surprises, per se, but it’s a great new haul of planets, and plenty of fodder for exploring the individual systems within the catalog.”
Exoplanets are the planets that are found outside our solar system. To find these, scientists use a space telescope to track them, which in this case is the K2 Kepler telescope. An International team of scientists analysed 275 possible exoplanets. Out of 275, 149 were validated and 95 are entirely new. Andrew Mayo, lead author who works at the National Space Institute, has presented the findings in the Astronomical Journal and revealed that he had been working on the project since the first K2 data was released back in 2014. According to Mayo, the team was able to find planets ranging in size from those smaller than Earth to the size of Jupiter and even much larger.
These incredible findings are not easy. It is difficult to distinguish between signals coming from exoplanets and those that are not, as signals can be caused by multiple star systems, spacecraft noise or other sources. The original Kepler spacecraft was launched in the year 2009. It has observed faraway, dim planets and stars for four years till a mechanical failure crippled the telescope in 2013. This paved the way for K2 mission which so far has been providing more success.
The K2 mission is especially good at finding bright stars and planets. Reports suggest that so far both Kepler and K2 missions have discovered over 5,100 exoplanet candidates, which currently the scientists are analysing. The search for new exoplanets is at present one of the most exciting areas of space science as it provides fascinating insights of our universe.