Thanks to Kepler space telescope, NASA has announced that it has discovered nearly 100 new planets outside our solar system. After already completing its primary mission and discovering thousands of new worlds, the Kepler telescope is currently in an extended mission phase called “K2” bringing the total number of exoplanets found via the K2 mission to almost 300.
Astronomers and researchers analysed hundreds of signals of potential exoplanets to determine which signals were created by exoplanets and which were caused by other sources.
“We started out analysing 275 candidates, of which 149 were validated as real exoplanets. In turn, 95 of these planets have proved to be new discoveries,” said Andrew Mayo, doctoral student at the Technical University of Denmark and the lead author of the research published in the Astronomical Journal. “This research has been underway since the first K2 data release in 2014.”
Mayo and his colleagues analysed hundreds of signals of potential exoplanets to determine which signals were created by exoplanets and which were caused by other sources. One of the planets detected was orbiting a very bright star. “We found that some of the signals were caused by multiple star systems or noise from the spacecraft,” Mayo said. “But we also detected planets that range from sub Earth-sized to the size of Jupiter and larger.”
The Kepler spacecraft was launched in 2009 with the aim finding new objects and exoplanets in a single patch of sky, but in 2013, a mechanical failure crippled the telescope. However, astronomers and engineers devised a way to repurpose and save the space telescope by changing its field of view periodically. This solution paved the way for the follow-up K2 mission, which is still ongoing as the spacecraft searches for exoplanet transits.
In the meanwhile, NASA's transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where it will undergo final preparations for launch. Launch is scheduled for no earlier than April 16, pending range approval.