The universe just got a little more crowded thanks to the latest findings from NASA’s Kepler space telescope team. The group has identified more than 219 planet candidates, including 10 that are “near-Earth size” and could potentially have liquid water on their surfaces.
The announcement, made on June 19, revealed the Kepler mission’s latest catalog of planet candidates. The mission has identified 4,034 planets so far, with 2,335 confirmed as exoplanets, which is a planet that “orbits around a star” outside of our solar system. The 10 planets NASA identified exist in the “habitable zone,” in which the heat from the stars it orbits isn’t too hot or too cold for liquid water to form on the surface of the planet. The catalog is vital to the project’s mission.
“This carefully-measured catalog is the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy’s most compelling questions – how many planets like our Earth are in the galaxy?” said Susan Thompson, a Kepler research scientist, in a press release.
New planets weren’t the only thing the team discovered. It also learned that small planets can exist in two forms: gaseous ones like Neptune and rocky Earth-size ones.
The agency’s latest findings continue to probe larger questions about space and other solar systems that exist beyond ours – and bring up the possibility of exploring them one day.