“The Kepler and K2 missions just keep on giving!” Harvard astrophysicist, David Latham told The Daily Galaxy. “Operations ended more than three years ago when the spacecraft ran out of fuel, but we continue to mine the data archives for celestial gems.”
“NASA’s search for life in the Universe is focused on so-called Habitable Zone planets, which are worlds that have the potential for liquid water oceans,” says Stephanie Olson at the University of Chicago. “But not all oceans are equally hospitable–and some oceans will be better places to live than others due to their global circulation patterns”.
“We have been observing this star for three years to look for periodic variations in its velocity,” explains Mathias Zechmeister, a researcher at the University of Göttingen. The observations showed that two planets are orbiting it, both of them similar to the planets in the inner part of the Solar System. They are just a little bigger than the Earth and are situated in the “inhabitable zone” where water can exist as a liquid.
Are Homo sapiens a one-off, genetic accident? Scientists have identified a group of planets outside our solar system where the same chemical conditions that may have led to life on Earth exist in what they call the Abiogenesis Zone. It’s also possible that if there is extraterrestrial life, that it has, or will, develop in a totally different way than it did on Earth.
“Our new algorithm helps to draw a more realistic picture of the exoplanet population in space,” says Michael Hippke of Germany’s Sonneberg Observatory about 18 previously undetected planets buried in data from the Kepler Space Telescope, one of which orbits its red dwarf star within the habitable zone. “This method constitutes a significant step forward, especially in the search for Earth-like planets.”