Over the last few months NASA has been searching for planets outside our own solar system with the Kepler space telescope. It seems this objective to find additional planets has been reached with the recent discovery of two new planets.
On August 26, 2010 NASA announced it has been able to confirm the existence of two planets millions of miles from Earth. The pair of planets found have been described as being slightly smaller than the size of Saturn and have been observed to be orbiting a distant star. It is located about 2,000 light years away in the constellation Lyra and the star been dubbed Kepler-9 (CNN.com). The planets have been named Kepler-9b and Kepler-9c.
NASA stated the discovery is the “first set of multiple planets crossing in front of one uniform star” said William Borucki, who is the science principal investigator for the Kepler Mission (CNN.com and Time.com).
NASA describes the planets have possessing a clear gravitational interaction, but are not Earth-like planets due to the fact they are too close in proximity to the star they orbit which would make conditions too hot to be livable.
In addition to Kepler-9b and Kepler-9c a third planet may have been discovered, but has not been officially declared at this time. The third outer space body which seems to be orbiting Kepler-9 appears to be smaller and about 1.5 the size of Earth. This planet is also very close to its star.
To date more than 700 planet candidates have been found and the hunt is still going.
NASA’s mission to find Earth-like planets is scheduled to last another three and a half years; the project was initiated in March 2009 when the Kepler telescope was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. At the moment the Kepler telescope is conducting explorations 18 million miles away from Earth and is studying more than 100,000 stars (CNN.com).
Kepler can answer some questions, but many more queries arise. Borucki indicates other missions are in the making which may help shed some proverbial light on the many mysteries of the universe.
In generations and centuries past people wondered these kinds of questions, but today’s world has technology which has progressed significantly and is still growing at a rapid pace. This is the innovation that may ultimately result in an ability to unlock the many puzzlements that exist in the unknowns of outer space.
For more information on the Kepler mission, visit the NASA website for a full description of the mission and its findings.