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NASA finds 'Many New Worlds'

Discussion in 'Jukwaa la Elimu (Education Forum)' started by X-PASTER, Feb 3, 2011.


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    Nasa's planet-hunting telescope is finding whole new worlds of possibilities in the search for alien life.

    An early report from a cosmic census indicates that relatively small planets and stable multi-planet systems are far more plentiful than previous searches showed.

    Nasa has released new data from its Kepler telescope on more than 1,000 possible new planets outside our solar system, more than doubling the count of what astronomers call exoplanets.

    They have not been confirmed as planets yet, but some astronomers estimate that 90% of what Kepler has found will eventually be verified.

    Kepler, launched in 2009, has been orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars, conducting a planet census and searching for Earth-like planets since last year. It has found there are more planets that are much smaller than Jupiter - the biggest planet in our solar system - than there are giant planets.

    Some of these even approach Earth's size. That means they are better potential candidates for life than the behemoths that are more easily spotted, astronomers say.

    While Kepler has not yet found planets that are as small as Earth, all the results are "pointing in the right direction", said astronomer Jonathan Fortney, a Kepler researcher from University of California Santa Cruz.

    Yale University exoplanet expert Debra Fischer, who was not part of the Kepler team but serves as an outside expert for NASA, said the new information "gives us a much firmer footing" in eventual hopes for worlds that could harbour life.

    "I feel different today, knowing these new Kepler results, than I did a week ago," said Professor Fischer.