The Kepler Telescope has discovered 20 new planets that have the capacity to host life, new data has revealed. These planets are in solar systems that are similar to ours in that they revolve around a large star like our sun. According to Science Mag, some of these worlds are even similar in size and year-length to Earth. As for the question on everyone’s mind — Is there life on these planets? — scientists say that they are 70 to 80 percent certain that they have the ability to support life but they need more time to make further observations.
To determine whether there’s life on a planet, scientists must investigate a long list of environmental conditions. But it isn’t a straightforward process, Science Mag notes. Even if they find a specific gas, like oxygen, you still have to determine how it got to that location. Scientists must also consider whether the temperature of the world supports water formation and the length of the world’s days and seasons. A deep examination of the planet’s star is also key because they need to understand whether it radiates enough light to sustain life. On the flipside, its rays could be deadly to organisms in the world, so that needs to be studied as well.
“Each [observation] will provide crucial evidence to piece together to say if there is life,” says Mary Voytek, head of NASA’s astrobiology program.
Ever since the first exoplanet, the technical term for a planet outside of our solar system, was found in 1995, the search has been on for habitable planets that are similar to earth. So far, NASA has found 3,500 exoplanets, which include roughly 30 Earth-like worlds that contain water.
According to Space.com, one of these Earth-like planets, the LHS 140HB, is only 40 lightyears away from us, which, in astronomy terms, is very close. It also exists in what’s called a “habitable zone” in relation to its star, which means that it potentially contains liquid water.
But the current technology can only give scientists a rudimentary understanding of the planets namely their orbits, size, and mass. To learn more, they need to break down “spectra,” which is light that has traveled through the planet’s atmosphere or reflected from its surface.
Do you think that alien life will be discovered on one of these planets? If so, what do you think these organisms will look like, and will they be receptive to humans? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
[Featured Image by NASA/NASA/Getty Images]