An international group of astronomers reports that the number of detected exoplanets has increased by almost a hundred, thanks to the ongoing mission of K2 Space Telescope Kepler of NASA’s aerospace agency. After analyzing the latest data received from the telescope, scientists announced the discovery of 95 more planets, which generally increases the number of exoplanets detected within the K2 mission to almost 300.
“We started an analysis of 275 candidates, 149 of which were subsequently confirmed as exoplanets. At the same time, 95 of them are previously unknown, “commented lead author Andrew Mayo of the Danish Technical University.
Recall that the space mission “Kepler” was launched in 2009. Since then, the telescope has been circling around the Sun and is trying to discover new exoplanets through the transit method of observation – from time to time photographes other stars and seeks changes in their brightness. If the brightness decreases, and then after a certain period of time acquires the same value, then, most likely, this means that the light of the star is periodically blocked by a rather large body. In other words, perhaps, a planet.
The method is very laborious and requires an analysis of a huge amount of data. First, you need to highlight the periods of the change in brightness, and then confirm them. In addition, it works only if the planet and the star fall into the plane of the observer’s line of sight (either us, or, as in this case, the Kepler telescope). Nevertheless, the method is recognized by astronomers to be quite effective. Thanks to him, noted in NASA, within the main part of the mission “Kepler” found 5,100 candidates and confirmed the existence of 2341 exoplanets.
Unfortunately, in 2013 the space telescope faced a serious problem, when one of its gyroscopes, helping to navigate in space, failed. However, NASA found a way to extend the life of the space observer. For the orientation of the telescope, it was decided to use auxiliary steering motors. Thanks to this, the telescope serves science to this day.
The data that the Mayo team used for analysis were collected by the telescope as early as 2014. Scientists had to work hard to confirm that the marked changes in the brightness of the star were not caused by other possible factors.
“We found that the source of some signals are several star systems, as well as electromagnetic noise of the spacecraft itself. But we also discovered planets ranging in size from very small earth-like to a size with Jupiter and even more, “commented Mayo.
“For example, one of the planets, which was not previously known, is located at the star HD 212657, located about 254 light years from us. It has a 10-day orbital period of rotation and is located at one of the brightest stars discovered within the Kepler K2 mission. ”
Astronomers explain that the brighter the star, the more we can learn about the planet around it. And in the future, with the launch of more powerful telescopes, we will be able to obtain even sharper images of the detected objects. It is possible that thanks to new technologies, scientists will be able to obtain even information about the atmospheres of already detected exoplanets (for example, the TRAPPIST-1 system) and those that are yet to be found.
The search for exoplanets, of course, is connected with the desire of scientists to find extraterrestrial life. But only in part. Statistics are also important here, which will make it possible at least approximately to understand how many planets in general can exist in space: how many of them can be attributed to earth-like, how many to gaseous. Ultimately, this will reveal how unique and unique is our solar system, and how it fits into the overall picture of the universe.