They're everywhere, rocky planets abound thanks to the newest treasure trove of data garnered by Kepler, the little telescope that can.
Rocky planets are probably a whole lot more common in our galaxy than astronomers previously believed — according to the latest release of Kepler Space Telescope data last week — a scenario that enhances the prospects for extraterrestrial life in nearby solar systems.
Kepler's final tally of exoplanets in the Cygnus constellation — the most comprehensive and detailed catalogue of exoplanets to date — indicates 4,034 possible planets, of which 50 are Earth-sized and reside in the habitable zone of their stars. The set includes KOI 7711 (short for Kepler 'object of interest'), which is just 30 percent larger than Earth and roughly the same distance from its star as the Earth is to the sun, meaning it receives a similar amount of energy.
What are the chances of life in the universe? To yours truly, 100% without question.
New planet candidates from the eighth Kepler planet candidate catalog show numerous terrestrial worlds that are near the size of Earth and within the habitable zone of their stars. The dark green span represents an optimistic estimate for habitable zone, while the brighter green a more conservative estimate. Blue circles are confirmed exoplanets, while yellow circles are new planet candidates that require follow-up observations. Credit: Wendy Stenzel/NASA/Ames Research Center
Kepler has discovered a remarkable quantity of exoplanets (yellow dots) and significantly advanced the edge of the unexplored "frontier." Rocky planets now account for a significant number of exoplanet discoveries. Credit: Natalie Batalha/Wendy Stenzel/NASA/Ames Research Center
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