NASA astronomers discover earth-like planets

Shreya Ravindran, Editor

Using NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft, astronomers have recently discovered four planets that are almost the same size of Earth and that fall under the “Goldilocks Zone.” The “Goldilocks Zone” is often referred to as the “Habitable Zone,” and is described as the region surrounding a star in which water can remain in its liquid state.
NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft, designed to detect planets similar to Earth, played a significant role in this discovery, as well as other discoveries of Earth-like planets during the past five years. Kepler has helped scientists to refine their understanding of the boundary between rocky planets and ice giants.
Astronomers are investigating which planets are more sustainable for life. Due to these planets’ small orbits, it is plausible that they are too hot to support life because they are closer to the stars.
“When we search for life outside our solar system we focus on finding planets with characteristics that mimic that of Earth. Temperature, size, and energy received from the stars are few of many characteristics,” Elisa Quintana, research scientist at the SETI Institute at NASA’s Ames Research Center, said in her Kepler-186 paper.
Scientists are not certain if life could exist on these newly-found planets; however, the discovery indicates a growing path of finding a world similar to Earth. The discoveries bring the total number of planets that are located in the habitable zone and are no bigger than twice the size of Earth to eight or nine.
“We do not need to talk about one or two exoplanets that could be like Earth, since we are finding many,” Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA headquarters in Washington, said. “This discovery is a significant step toward finding worlds like Earth. Future NASA missions, like the 2017 Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the James Webb Space Telescope, will discover the nearest rocky exoplanets and determine their composition and atmospheric conditions, continuing humankind’s quest to find truly Earth-like worlds.”