The discoveries of astronomical science is a never-ending pit that has no endpoint. With the advance in technology, we are getting to see more and more of the bits and pieces of the bigger puzzle of space studies.
One would look up and wonder the extravagant space that surrounds us and question “Are we alone?”. But today the tables have turned, we have datas, recordings, and other algorithms that provide the proof that there is much more than just the Milky Way.
NASA’s very own, the Kepler Space Telescope mission is one of those programs that provided such information to mankind.
The KST’s main goal was to discover other planets in space that orbits around a star in the habitable zone that has the same size as our planet Earth, aka the Exoplanets. The habitable zone in the orbit of a star is a region that has the right temperature where water can exist in its liquid form.
This telescope was launched on March 7, 2009. And upon exceeding its limited RCS fuel the mission retired after 9 years of operation under the principal investigator Willaim J. Borucki on October 30, 2018. The mission report concluded with an indication that there are billions of hidden planets in the space.
Here are the planets discovered by the KST as of April 18, 2013.
But, that wasn’t really the end of it. Just two years later on April 16, 2020, NASA confirmed the existence of a planet that looks very similar to Earth, the Keplar-1649c.
NASA quotes, “Out of all the exoplanets found by Kepler, this distant world – located 300 light-years from Earth – is most similar to Earth in size and estimated temperature.”
It all began when a group of transatlantic scientists reanalyzed the old reports manually and found that this information was hiding in plain sight. The team was double-checking the data tagged as the ‘False Positive’ by the algorithm Robovetter to ensure whether these data were truly errors. And that’s how they ended up discovering the Exoplanet. Andrew Vanderburg, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin says, “If we hadn’t looked over the algorithm’s work by hand, we would have missed it. Out of all the mislabeled planets, we’ve recovered, this one’s particularly exciting – not just because it’s in the habitable zone and Earth-size, but because of how it might interact with this neighboring planet.”
Here is a picture of what the surface of the Kepler-1649c could look like.
“This newly revealed world is only 1.06 times larger than our own planet. Also, the amount of starlight it receives from its host star is 75% of the amount of light Earth receives from our Sun – meaning the exoplanet’s temperature may be similar to our planet’s, as well. But unlike Earth, it orbits a red dwarf. Though none have been observed in this system, this type of star is known for stellar flare-ups that may make a planet’s environment challenging for any potential life.”
There is so little known about this exoplanet, and there are many yet to be discovered but it is indeed one of the most intriguing discoveries of mankind. To find a planet similar to Earth that could potentially habitat life on its surface.
It really does paint an image in our minds of what else did we miss and what more to learn. On this note, the question lives on, “Are we alone?”