Around 11:00 am EDT today, NASA made an announcement about the recent discoveries from their Kepler mission. After much speculation as to the nature of the announcement, the public was finally rewarded with a glimpse into the organization’s latest finds beyond the Milky Way Galaxy.
What can we expect? For now, NASA is keeping the exciting details to themselves, promising to release their discoveries during their official announcement. In the past, NASA has discussed mission goals, the reason why their missions are important, and the discoveries of other objects in space. For now, NASA has hinted their reveal is a general discussion of the Kepler mission.
What is The Kepler Mission?
Kepler is a space station satellite built by NASA for the purpose of discovering new worlds. Whether these worlds were planets, asteroids, galaxies, or the far reaches of space didn’t matter. NASA’s eyes were on the sky and Kepler was the spyglass through which they saw. It was geared up with a photometer, a device that measured the brightness of stars nearby. Officially launched on March 7th, 2009, the Kepler mission has been successful for the past 8 years.
Kepler’s Past Discoveries
During its time in orbit, Kepler has made amazing discoveries. Not only has Kepler observed and recorded 145,000 main-sequence stars (stars in the same phase as our sun), it has also discovered over 1,000 exoplanets beyond our solar system. It was revealed, not long after these discoveries, that exoplanets were observed revolving around a single star, much like our planets revolve around the sun. Does this mean Kepler might have found life on one of these exoplanets?
Life Beyond Earth Speculation
Each time NASA discusses a future announcement, the most common speculation is whether or not they have discovered life beyond Earth. In the past, NASA has concluded that there are exoplanets that exist with traces of water. Without water, life on Earth would not exist and because of this fact, NASA looks for planets with significant amounts of it. Any mention of exoplanets with Earth-like features leads people to wonder when NASA will drop the news of extraterrestrial life.
NASA’s Official Reveal
According to Mario Perez, one of the program’s scientists, 219 new exoplanets have been discovered, with ten showing the most potential. These planets are rocky, within the habitable zone, and possibly supporting liquid water, all conditions necessary for life. With the data collected by Kepler, which has found more than 4,000 exoplanets to date, other projects are underway. As the TESS project prepares for launch in 2018, NASA continues to hunt for exoplanets, searching for habitable worlds among the stars.