Many people once thought Earth was unique in outer space in its ability to support life. Recent discoveries could shatter that notion, like one new analysis of information from the Kepler Space Telescope. An international team led by Susan Thompson of the SETI Institute has discovered there might be 20 worlds where life could dwell.


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There could be as many as 20 habitable planets in space, according to this new discovery. One of the most promising worlds is KOI-7923.01. It’s 97 percent Earth’s size, and has a year comprised of 395 days. It is a bit colder than Earth – think more tundra and less tropical island – but it is warm enough, and it’s big enough to hold liquid water so crucial for life. Jeff Coughlin of the NASA Ames Research Center told New Scientist, “If you had to choose one to send a spacecraft to, it’s not a bad option.”

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Many of the habitable worlds orbit stars similar to the sun. The star KOI-7923.01 orbits is a little colder than the sun, and that fact together with the exoplanet’s distance away makes KOI-7923.01 cooler than Earth. The time to complete an orbit varies among the potentially habitable worlds – at 395 days, KOI-7923.01 takes the longest. Some of the worlds finish an orbit in mere Earth weeks, or months. The quickest orbit is just 18 Earth days.

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Coughlin told New Scientist his team is around 70 to 80 percent sure these habitable worlds are solid candidates – they’ll need to confirm their hunch with further observations, such as from the Hubble Space Telescope or ground-based observatories. The original Kepler mission unearthed the planets, but it gazed at the same part of the sky for just four years until its reaction wheels broke, hindering its aiming ability. That means we’ve only glimpsed the planets just once or twice, and, according to New Scientist, the signals could be wobbly.

The scientists recently submitted their research to a journal in the middle of October.

Via New Scientist

Images via NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle and NASA/W. Stenzel