Will Kepler Reveal Alien Planet Discovery?
This artist’s conception shows the inner four planets of the Gliese 581 system and their host star. (Credit: NASA/Lynette Clark)
As astronomers search through their telescopes for a carbon copy of the Earth, NASA is getting ready to release a trove of new data on hundreds of planets that might be capable of supporting life.
Few scientists expect something so bold. But the latest data on exoplanets – which orbit stars besides our sun – is said to include approximately 400 prospects. The information was part of a the latest data dump sent back by the Kepler space probe, which so far has surveyed some 156,000 stars since it launched into orbit in 2009. On Wednesday, NASA will host a press conference to talk about new information gleaned from Kepler as well as the discovery of any more possible alien planets.
Earlier this month NASA announced the discovery of the first Earth-size exoplanet. That hardly will be the last.
“Honestly, Kepler’s so good that it’s hard to beat it. It gets the numbers. Kepler’s going to find thousands,” said Geoff Marcy, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Kepler co-investigator, in an interview with LiveScience.com. “I bet by 2020, there’ll be 10,000 planets, and by 2030 there might be another 20,000 or 30,000 more planets.”