New Habitable Kepler World – “Human Eyes Found It Hidden in the Data”

Kepler Mission launched by NASA has discovered another world, two months after the Kepler spacecraft ran out of the fuel. They took nine years to complete their mission and meanwhile they unveiled 2,600 confirmed planets in addition to many more which are not yet confirmed.

This time NASA has come up with all new planet-hunter, the Transition Exo-planet Survey Satellite, which is being used for the new discoveries. With the aid of Kepler’s Space Telescope, the scientists have found that there is a planet in the habitable zone of stars which is found to be twice the size of Earth. This new world is named as K2-288Bb. It is also a dense ball of gases resembling that of Neptune.

The scientists were very happy with this great discovery as it was uncommon. It resides in the K2-288 stellar system from where it get its name. This stellar system comprises a dim set of stars (M-type stars) among which the brightest star is half massive as the sun.

New Habitable Kepler World
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Image Credit: NASA

A team comprising of an undergraduate student and an astrophysicist at NASA searched the dimming of stars while the planet moves across them. The team noticed two planetary transits in the same system. But they needed the presence of a third transit before confirming the presence of the neighboring planet but they didn’t notice any.

From 2014-2018, the spacecraft reposition itself at the start of every year to search other parts of the sky. While orienting the equipments toward the sun, the equipment has to suffer shape alteration due to elevated temperature. To cope with all these concerns, the software was used but it ignored that signals where third transit lied.

To ensure the accuracy, the data was re-analyzed and the planets were re-evaluated to confirm the presence of the entities but due to the occurrence of other noises in space that mimics the transits, the accuracy wasn’t assured.

All the collected data was sent to Exoplanet Explorers to re-process the data. In 2017, volunteers confirmed the third transit. They had a meeting a discussed all the shortcomings that have hindered them to notice it.

For this mission, they employed Spitzer Space Telescope, K II telescope, and the NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility to discover all these.


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