Data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has revealed a possible 172 new exoplanets. In addition to the 172 planetary candidates, the team of astronomers also discovered 18 possible multi-planetary systems.
Among the candidates are several very odd systems. One system in particular that’s been named EPIC 249559552 is located approximately 650 light-years away from us. There are two “sub-Neptunes” in the system (these are smaller planets than Neptune) that orbit a yellow-white sun-like star. Their orbits are rather peculiar as the planet closest to the star completes five orbits for every two done by the further world (this gravitational influence is called orbital resonance).
Another system that is located about 3,500 light-years away from us is called EPIC 249731291 and it has a star that is quite similar to our own sun. Orbiting that star are two giant gas planets that are a little smaller than Saturn. They orbit the star at such a close range that their atmospheres would be exceptionally hot. To understand this better, if those planets were in our Solar System, they would be located closer than Mercury is to our sun.
Despite being retired in 2018, experts are still recovering astonishing information from all of the data collected by the Kepler Space Telescope during its nine-year mission. By studying all of the data, scientists will get a better understanding of how planetary systems form and how they change throughout the years; how gas giants form further away from their star before traveling inwards; and if there are certain types of exoplanets that exist more around specific types of stars.
Jessie Christiansen, who is the lead scientist for the NASA Exoplanet Archive at Caltech’s IPAC astronomy center, discussed the research by stating, “There was a lot of unexplored territory in these NASA Kepler archival data, so we worked together to build a new software pipeline that could uniformly look through the final four years of observations.”
Thanks to Kepler, so far there have been over 2,800 planets that have been confirmed and more than 3,250 that are awaiting confirmation (these include the recently discovered 172 new worlds). The research was published in The Astronomical Journal.
This news comes not long after it was reported that 301 new planets had been confirmed that brought the total at that time to 4,569. Currently, there are a total of 4,884 exoplanets that have been confirmed; 7,958 that are awaiting confirmation; and 3,659 planetary systems.