More Than 100 New Planets Discovered In Old Kepler Data

The Kepler Space Telescope may be gone, but its legacy lives on.

Artist's rendition of an exoplanet system.
Deuxmille15 / Wikimedia Commons / Cropped and Resized (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Kepler Space Telescope may be gone, but its legacy lives on.

In early August, the Inquisitr reported on an incredible breakthrough in the analysis of Kepler data which led to the confirmation of 44 new exoplanets. Hailed as the largest exoplanet haul for Japan, which made the discovery, the remarkable find has just been extended to more than 100 new alien worlds, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) announced yesterday.

According to a NAOJ news release, the same team that uncovered the 44 exoplanets has just confirmed an additional 60 — thereby upping the total number of newfound Kepler exoplanets to 104.

While the previously found 44 planets were spotted by the space telescope during the 10th campaign of its K2 mission, the latest exoplanet haul came from even older data. The newly discovered exoplanets emerged from Kepler observations conducted during Campaigns 5 through 8, which spanned nearly nine months between April 2015 and January 2016.

The credit for this amazing find goes to astronomers from the University of Tokyo in Japan, who scoured the Kepler data and used both ground- and space-based telescopes to confirm the planetary candidates. All in all, the team looked at 227 detections from the K2 mission and ended up confirming 104 of them as real exoplanets. On top of that, they managed to pull it all off in just three months, notes the NAOJ.

The second batch of Kepler exoplanets hailed from a series of 155 detections made during Campaigns 5-8. Among the 60 new exoplanets, the astronomers discovered 18 rocky planets larger than Earth but no bigger than twice its size. At the same time, the team also found two dozen planets in 11 multi-planet systems, as well as a four-planet system orbiting a sun-like star.

In addition, a handful of ultra-short-period planets. These planets orbit their host stars in less than 24 hours, which means that a year on these alien worlds is shorter than a day on Earth.

“These planets are quite diverse and expected to play a large role in developing the research field of exoplanets and life in the universe,” stated NAOJ officials.

The analysis also yielded 77 planet candidates that remain to be checked. The results of the investigation were published at the end of November in the Astronomical Journal.

“We broke our old record with this new paper,” said study lead author John Livingston, who helmed both studies of the Kepler K2 data.

“By extrapolating our analysis of these 155 candidates, we estimate that hundreds of planets remain unconfirmed in the K2 data.”

In a video posted on YouTube in late October, Livingston offers an animation of the 104-exoplanet haul, which reveals more clues about their sizes and temperatures.

As the Inquisitr previously reported, Kepler’s K2 mission began in 2014 and came to an end earlier this year when the space telescope was retired after almost a decade of service. During its highly prolific career, NASA’s expert planet-finder discovered more than 2,600 exoplanets, which amount to 70 percent of all the confirmed planets found outside of our solar system.

To find out where you can look up all of Kepler’s discoveries, go to this previous report from the Inquisitr.