NASA astronomers involved in the mission organized with the Kepler space telescope announced the discovery of 1,284 exoplanets (extrasolar planets) of which nine are considered potentially habitable, according to the websites sciencealert.com and descopera.ro.

This is the greatest discovery of this type done so far, given that the number of exoplanets now identified virtually doubled. Success was achieved using a new technique that allows scientists to evaluate the probability that cosmic objects sighted are indeed planets, not just the result of the activity of other celestial bodies.

Hopes of detecting a planet similar to Earth

The researcher Ellen Stofan said at a press conference held by NASA that the number of planets identified using the telescope Kepler has doubled and this gives them hope that they may find in the end a planet similar to Earth.

Discovery made by the Kepler telescope

The Kepler telescope identifies new cosmic objects by examining the light coming from the distant stars. Any signal emitted by these sources may indicate the presence of a new planet. This is the best system ever created so far. However, it can produce a lot of false results, because the planets are not the only cosmic bodies that can blur the light of a star. For example, it could be a binary star system, a brown dwarf star or just a star with a small mass.

Until recently, the identity of the exoplanets was verified using other telescopes on the ground, but this method is extremely expensive and it involves carrying out research for a long period of time. Thus, from  the launch of the Kepler mission 7 years ago, the discovery of only 984 exoplanets had been confirmed, according to descopera.ro.

With this new technology, the astronomers can check whether a space object is indeed a planet, without any further help given by the telescopes on the ground. The method consists of the calculation of two elements: the signal obtained after studying the transit of that celestial body and the frequency of the signals coming from the cosmic objects that are not planets. The results of this analysis are scaled from 0 to 1. The candidates with a reliability higher than 99% are called " validated planets."There is no need for researchers to make further observations about these ones.

With this technique, more than 1000 exoplanets have been validated so far and many of them are similar in size to Earth. NASA researchers hope that they can finally answer the question that has always fascinated humankind: Are we alone in the Universe?

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