Nasa's Kepler discovers more than 104 new exoplanets

2016-07-19 11:19
This artist concept shows Nasa's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft. (Nasa, AFP)

This artist concept shows Nasa's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft. (Nasa, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - An international team of researchers announced on Monday the discovery of 104 new planets outside our solar system, including four that could have Earth-like, rocky surfaces.

Scientists discovered the exoplanets using the Kepler space telescope as well as ground observations by Earth-based telescopes, including four on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

The $600m (R8.5bn) Kepler mission has allowed scientists to discover more than 4 600 planets – 2 326 of them confirmed - since it launched in 2009.

"The diversity of planets is astounding," said Evan Sinukoff, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii who contributed to the research.

"We discovered many planets about twice the size of the Earth orbiting so close to their host stars that they are hotter than 500°C."

The latest trove includes 21 situated within their sun's habitable zone - the distance from a star that could permit liquid water to exist and support life.

The four potentially rocky planets - ranging from 20% to 50% larger than Earth - orbit tightly around the same star in a planetary system about 400 light-years from Earth.

Though the planets rotate around their star even closer than Mercury orbits the sun, two of the planets may have surface temperatures similar to Earth's, as their star is cooler than our sun, astronomers said.

The unmanned Kepler mission has been scanning 150 000 stars in the Cygnus constellation for signs of orbiting bodies, particularly those that might be able to support life.

It works by observing a dimming in the light of a star, known as a transit, each time an orbiting planet passes in front of it.

In 2013, the space telescope suffered a problem with the reaction wheels that typically keep the spacecraft steady.

Nasa subsequently set the spacecraft on a new mission called K2, to study supernovas, star clusters and far-off galaxies.

Scientists verified the latest exoplanets as part of the K2 mission.

Read more on:    nasa  |  space

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.