Get ready for some 'galactic context': nearly 100 new exoplanets discovered

NASA K2 mission 100 exoplanets discovery Technical University of Denmark potential exoplanets Kepler spacecraft Earth-sized planets gas giants multiple star systems observatories

"We found that some of the signals were caused by multiple star systems or noise from the spacecraft", said Andrew Mayo, an American PhD student at the National Space Institute of the Technical University of Denmark and the publication's lead author.

But mission managers figured out a way to stabilize Kepler using sunlight pressure, and the spacecraft soon embarked on its K2 mission, which involves exoplanet hunting on a more limited basis, as well as observing comets and asteroids in our own solar system, supernovas and a range of other objects and phenomena.

A candidate exoplanet is measured by the shadow it causes as it crosses its host star.

Out of 275 candidate planets, scientists confirmed 95 were exoplanets.

Kepler has been so successful at capturing these transits that numerous new discoveries we've made by trawling through the vast quantities of data that Kepler has captured in the past. However, they were eventually able to confirm the discovery of 95 new exoplanets, ranging in size from smaller than Earth to bigger than Jupiter, and even larger.

An worldwide team of researchers from institutions including NASA, Caltech, Denmark, and the University of California, Berkeley, today added 95 new exoplanets to the list.

But a mechanical failure crippled the telescope in 2013, paving the way for a follow-up K2 mission that's proving much more successful. These dips are indications of exoplanets, which must then be examined more closely in order to confirm their nature. However, a collaboration between astronomers and engineers resulted in the ability to repurpose and save the telescope by changing its field of view at regular intervals. This marked the start of the K2 mission.

Mayo has stated that it's hard to determine if these 100 new planets were actually planets, saying, "We found that some of the signals were caused by multiple star systems or noise from the spacecraft". "In comparison very few targets from the original Kepler mission were suitable for those types of analyses". "We validated a planet on a 10-day orbit around a star called HD 212657, which is now the brightest star found by either the Kepler or K2 missions to host a validated planet". "Planets around bright stars are important because astronomers can learn a lot about them from ground-based observatories". We now know that planets around other stars are the rule rather than the exception and that there are likely billions in the Milky Way alone. This huge discovery brings the total number of exoplanets discovered on this mission close to 300.

"Exoplanets are a very exciting field of space science", said Mayo. "It taught us volumes about the types of exoplanets and exoplanet systems that can exist in nature and gave us an idea of what the general exoplanet population looks like".



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