Kepler has led the way finding over 1000 exoplanets. A new vehicle, TESS – Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, will soon (2017) join Kepler to seek out planets. TESS is different in that it will focus on closer stars, those within about 200 light years. It will use the same method as Keplar, looking for the light from stars to slightly dim as a planet passes between the star and Earth in its orbit.
The four, eight inch telescopes on board TESS are designed to be very sensitive to variations in light intensity. Sensitive enough to pick up the transit of planets event smaller than Earth. Over the first two years of operation, TESS will survey 200,000 stars. The expectation is that thousands of new exoplanets will be discovered.
We are all still waiting to hear if we are alone. Alone in the universe that is. I came across the article “THE SEARCH FOR ALIEN LIFE IS GETTING BIGGER, WEIRDER, AND MORE CONTENTIOUS” yesterday that made me think a little more about this.
SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has been going on for some years now. Only recently, however, has the technology been available to determine if there are other planets out there. There are over 1,900 confirmed exoplanets now with more than 4,600 waiting on confirmation. The sky is becoming rich with potential homes for life in the universe. As the capability of our telescopes and instrumentation improves, those numbers are sure to grow rapidly in the decades ahead.
NASA’s Kepler telescope has helped greatly with this search. The planned James Webb telescope scheduled to be launched in October 2018 will provide an even better look at what is out there.
NASA, using the Kepler telescope, has identified a very Earth-like planet in the ‘habitable zone‘ of Kepler 452b. Not only is the planet similar to Earth, the sun it orbits is a G-type star like our own sun. Granted the planet is about 60% larger than Earth with a projected gravity about twice that of Earth, but the characteristics of the planet make it sound like a promising candidate for some kind of life.
Don’t start packing your bags yet, as this exoplanet is 1400 light years away. This was not the only promising discovery announced. The discovery of eleven other planets in the ‘habitable zone’ was also announced. These recent announcements brings the number of confirmed planets to 1,030, and possible planets to 4,675.
We can only look forward to what new discoveries various new ground and orbiting telescopes will bring as they are put into production.