We Just Identified More Than 200 New (Potential) Planets
The Kepler space telescope is our first mission capable of identifying Earth-size planets around other stars. On Monday, June 19, 2017, scientists from many countries gathered at our Ames Research Center to talk about the latest results from the spacecraft, which include the identification of more than 200 potential new worlds! Here’s what you need to know:
We found 219 new planet candidates.
All of these worlds were found in a patch of sky near the Cygnus constellation in our Milky Way galaxy. Between 2009 and 2013, Kepler searched more than 200,000 stars in the region for orbiting planets. The 219 new planet candidates are part of the more than 4,000 planet candidates and 2,300 confirmed planets Kepler has identified to date.
Ten of these worlds are like our own.
Out of the 219 new planet candidates, 10 are possibly rocky, terrestrial worlds and orbit their star in the habitable zone – the range of distances from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet.
Small planets come in two sizes.
Kepler has opened up our eyes to the existence of many small worlds. It turns out a lot of these planets are either approximately 1.5 times the size of Earth or just smaller than Neptune. The cool names given to planets of these sizes? Super Earths and mini-Neptunes.
Some of the new planets could be habitable.
Water is a key ingredient to life as we know it. Many of the new planet candidates are likely to have small rocky cores enveloped by a thick atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, and some are thought to be ocean worlds. That doesn’t necessarily mean the oceans of these planets are full of water, but we can dream, can’t we?
Other Earths are out there.
Kepler’s survey has made it possible for us to measure the number of Earth-size habitable zone planets in our galaxy. Determining how many planets like our own that exist is the big question we’ll explore next.
Comic Poison Ivy in the last 15 years: Hey you know, the whole man-hating evil seductress trope is kinda old and disrespectful and it’s time to recognize the potential of this complex and interesting character. We’ll focus on making her more sympathetic and less crazy. We’ll show she has a deep, real, and profound connection to the earth. We’ll show that she is struggling to maintain her humanity in light of a darkening situation and that she still feels compassion for human life, as it is also part of the earth. She will only apathetically kill people who are 100% irredeemable. She will have many moments in which she spares human life. She will have many complicated relationships with other women in the Universe, including Batgirl, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, the Birds of Prey, and many others. These relationships will range from uneasy trust or anger to understanding and love. She will not show romantic interest in men and will not be a sexually driven character. She will be a member of many hero teams, including the Birds of Prey and the Justice League, even if there are missteps in the writing of the character. Most of the Bat-family will recognize Ivy as a grey-area case that must be handled on an individual basis and will acknowledge that her situation is centered around tragedy and loss of self. They will recognize that Ivy could very well be the thing the saves the entire planet. They will recognize that Arkham is making her worse, and will do what they can to reason with her.
Wonder Woman will acknowledge that the Green and Mother Gaia chose Ivy as her protector and that she was wise to do so. (Sensation Comics #31)
Batgirl will show numerous moments of concern and understanding and will even acknowledge that if they were in another world, their relationship would be very different. She will value Ivy’s powers as a source of good and believes Ivy’s struggle stems from the flawed nature of humanity. (Batgirl Annual #2, various)
Batman will return to Ivy to ask her for help, knowing that when the world is at stake, she is a trustworthy ally to the Earth. (Swamp Thing) (Sensation Comics) (Detective Comics, various) (Justice League United) (Animal Man)
There will be many moments where the relationship between the part of Ivy that is still human and the part that is the Green struggle to cooperate or have complexities in their natures. (Cycle of Life and Death) (No Man’s Land) (Birds of Prey)
Harley Quinn will express implicit love for Ivy and in certain series, they will be in a canon loving relationship. This will not be subtext as it has been in the past. We will show an actual relationship between two women that isn’t just for eyecandy. (Harley Quinn series) (Bombshells)
Yes, there will be missteps in the canon as many different hands are working between many different series, but overall the character will have undergone a complete transformation that far exceeds the previous incarnations.
Every Media Outside of Comics, obsessed with an Ivy that hasn’t existed prominently in 15 years: u know, the slutty evil plant lady?
Is your favorite Star Wars planet a desert world or an ice planet or a jungle moon?
It’s possible that your favorite planet exists right here in our galaxy. Astronomers have found over 3,400 planets around other stars, called “exoplanets.”
Some of these alien worlds could be very similar to arid Tatooine, watery Scarif and even frozen Hoth, according to NASA scientists.
Find out if your planet exists in a galaxy far, far away or all around you. And May the Fourth be with you!
Planets With Two Suns
From Luke Skywalker’s home world Tatooine, you can stand in the orange glow of a double sunset. The same could said for Kepler-16b, a cold gas giant roughly the size of Saturn, that orbits two stars. Kepler-16b was the Kepler telescopes’s first discovery of a planet in a “circumbinary” orbit (that is, circling both stars, as opposed to just one, in a double star system).
The best part is that Tatooine aka Kepler-16b was just the first. It has family. A LOT of family. Half the stars in our galaxy are pairs, rather than single stars like our sun. If every star has at least one planet, that’s billions of worlds with two suns. Billions! Maybe waiting for life to be found on them.
Mars is a cold desert planet in our solar system, and we have plenty of examples of scorching hot planets in our galaxy (like Kepler-10b), which orbits its star in less than a day)! Scientists think that if there are other habitable planets in the galaxy, they’re more likely to be desert planets than ocean worlds. That’s because ocean worlds freeze when they’re too far from their star, or boil off their water if they’re too close, potentially making them unlivable. Perhaps, it’s not so weird that both Luke Skywalker and Rey grew up on planets that look a lot alike.
An icy super-Earth named OGLE-200-BLG-390Lb reminded scientists so much of the frozen Rebel base they nicknamed it “Hoth,” after its frozen temperature of minus 364 degrees Fahrenheit. Another Hoth-like planet was discovered last month; an Earth-mass icy world orbiting its star at the same distance as Earth orbits the sun. But its star is so faint, the surface of OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb is probably colder than Pluto.
Both the forest moon of Endor and Takodana, the home of Han Solo’s favorite cantina in “Force Awakens,” are green like our home planet. But astrobiologists think that plant life on other worlds could be red, black, or even rainbow-colored!
In February 2017, the Spitzer Space Telescope discovered seven Earth-sized planets in the same system, orbiting the tiny red star TRAPPIST-1.
The light from a red star, also known as an M dwarf, is dim and mostly in the infrared spectrum (as opposed to the visible spectrum we see with our sun). And that could mean plants with wildly different colors than what we’re used to seeing on Earth. Or, it could mean animals that see in the near-infrared.
What About Moons?
In Star Wars, Endor, the planet with the cute Ewoks, is actually a habitable moon of a gas giant. Now, we’re looking for life on the moons of our own gas giants. Saturn’s moon Enceladus or Jupiter’s moon Europa are ocean worlds that may well support life. Our Cassini spacecraft has explored the Saturn system and its moons. Watch the video and learn more about the missions’s findings.
The next few years will see the launch of a new generation of spacecraft to search for planets around other stars. TESS and the James Webb Telescope are slated to launch in 2018, and WFIRST in the mid-2020s. That’s one step closer to finding life.
You might want to take our ‘Star Wars: Fact or Fiction?’ quiz. Try it! Based on your score you may obtain the title of Padawan, Jedi Knight, or even Jedi Master!
You don’t need to visit a galaxy far, far away to find wondrous worlds. Just visit this one … there’s plenty to see.