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Fri Jan 4, 2013, 08:11 AM

"My God, it's full of planets!" - Kepler hints at over 250 new potentially habitable worlds

http://phl.upr.edu/press-releases/mygoditsfullofplanetstheyshouldhavesentapoet
NASA Kepler released last month 18,406 planet-like detection events from its last three year mission to search for exoplanets (Kepler Q1-Q12 TCE). Further analysis is required by the NASA Kepler Team and the scientific community to extract and identify true planets, including those potentially habitable. The Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ UPR Arecibo (PHL) performed a preliminary analysis and identified 262 candidates for potentially habitable worlds in this dataset. These candidates become top priority for further analysis, additional observations, and confirmation.

The Kepler Threshold Crossing Event (TCE) dataset consists of a list of stars with 18,406 transit-like features that resemble the signatures of transiting planets to a sufficient degree that they are passed on for further analysis. Many of these objects are false positives caused by stellar transits or other physical and instrumental conditions not related to planets. Those that pass additional tests are added to the Kepler Objects of Interest (KOI) list, currently at 2,320 candidates, for further validation. Finally, those verified by more astronomical observations supplement the 132 Kepler confirmed planets so far.

Only the best TCE objects, those with more than three transit events, were selected for the analysis in accordance with the PHLís Habitable Exoplanet Catalog (HEC) criteria. This reduced the sample to 15,847 objects eliminating a known instrumental bias for one-year period planets. Unfortunately, this also eliminated many interesting objects but more analysis will be required to sort out longer period planets. HEC identified and sorted with the Earth Similarity Index (ESI), a measure of Earth-likeness, 262 potentially habitable planet candidates. These include four subterrans (Mars-size), 23 terrans (Earth-size), and 235 superterrans (super Earth-size).

The preliminary analysis performed by the PHL helps to sort out and rank the best candidates for further exploration in NASA Keplerís TCE. Twenty-four of these have an ESI over 0.90 and therefore are quite Earth-like according to what is measurable. For example, the best candidate is an Earth-size planet in a 231 days orbit around the star KIC-6210395, which receives about 70% of the light that Earth receives from the Sun. More are expected with a similar period to Earth but they will be added later to HEC after further analysis. It will still be remarkable if only 50% of these turn out to be real planets.

It is estimated that there are millions of Earth-like planets in our Galaxy. However, most of these are out of our observational abilities for the coming decades, and probably many centuries. Only a small fraction of these planets, the ones that transit their star, are good enough for better characterization and to confirm their potential for life. This result suggests that there are over 8,500 transiting very Earth-like planets within reach of NASA Kepler-like missions, assuming the Kepler field is representative of all the sky. This sample is enough to occupy astronomers for many years.



Your tax dollars at work for once.

While these are listed as candidates, more analysis will be needed to determine how closely Earth-like the candidates legitimately turn out to be. That will require other telescopes, some of which are launching next year, as well as further observation. So while we yet cannot say we've found an 'Earth-2" we are damn close to finding 1 or more analogs.


The picture here shows the general sizes of the detected planets. One thing to note is that it's not mentioning exomoons, of which are Mars-size. There's a list at this page below if you wanna get your "Pandora" on. It's at the bottom, real easy to spot (in case some slow-witted Freepers are reading).
http://phl.upr.edu/projects/habitable-exoplanets-catalog/data/kepler-tce

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Reply "My God, it's full of planets!" - Kepler hints at over 250 new potentially habitable worlds (Original post)
agentS Jan 2013 OP
dballance Jan 2013 #1
elias7 Jan 2013 #10
AtheistCrusader Jan 2013 #18
Peace Patriot Jan 2013 #20
dballance Jan 2013 #21
Esse Quam Videri Jan 2013 #2
In_The_Wind Jan 2013 #3
Berlum Jan 2013 #4
sky imager Jan 2013 #5
Motown_Johnny Jan 2013 #6
heaven05 Jan 2013 #7
docgee Jan 2013 #8
getting old in mke Jan 2013 #9
docgee Jan 2013 #11
Odin2005 Jan 2013 #12
Myrina Jan 2013 #13
Jamastiene Jan 2013 #15
theKed Jan 2013 #19
AngryAmish Jan 2013 #14
Skittles Jan 2013 #22
samsingh Jan 2013 #16
snooper2 Jan 2013 #17
Initech Jan 2013 #23

Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 08:22 AM

1. So Perhaps Just Like Our Arrogance that the Sun Rotates Around the Earth

we might start to see more clearly it is highly likely we are not the only beings in this great big galaxy - not to mention the universe? I'm not much of a mathematician but I did pass my statistics courses in high school and college with flying colors. So, even as an amateur statistician I find it highly unlikely we are alone in this galaxy every clear night when I look upon the stars I see in the sky.

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Response to dballance (Reply #1)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 09:13 AM

10. And our arrogance to think life needs our climactic conditions

...unless we're just looking for another place to trash.

It has bothered me that we presume life forms will be carbon based and originate in a climate and atmosphere like that of our own. The universe is a dynamic place where literally anything can happen. Why not silica based life forms on a superhot planet, or gold based life forms on a gas giant?

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Response to elias7 (Reply #10)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 11:15 AM

18. We don't, actually.

Carbon is an incredibly useful atom for the building blocks of life, but certainly not the only element that can fill that role.

This talks about Silicon. Arsenic is also another contender.
http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/980221b.html

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Response to elias7 (Reply #10)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 12:34 PM

20. Well, I think it's a "you gotta start somewhere" problem.

Finding, sorting out, categorizing and understanding the vast, VAST, UNIMAGINABLY VAST number of galaxies, suns, planets, moons and other objects in the detectable Universe is, to say the least, a daunting project. Most of it is just teeny pinpoints of light (suns, even entire galaxies--it's all so very far away), or invisible (for instance, most planets are invisible to us--have to be detected by inference, by very slight disturbances in the local sun's motions, indicating a tiny companion; or by tiny pinpoints of blackness in transit across a sun's face).

There are various observations we can make, but, jeez, the task of guessing where life might be is even more daunting than trying to understand WHAT'S OUT THERE overall. We don't even know all of what it's made of (dark matter, for instance). We know very little, actually. We are just beginning to understand the Universe of which we are a part, and we do not even completely understand our own solar system, or our own planet.

I agree with you--especially given some of the bizarre forms of life that have recently been discovered here on earth--that life and sentience could arise, could even be abundant, in forms that are unknown here (and, hey, could BE here but we don't recognize it). But I don't agree that the search for "earthlike" planets is arrogant. I think that all of the scientists engaged in this search would acknowledge that there could be other bases for life than those we are familiar with. But how the heck do you FIND them? We only know life HERE.

I think it's just a "stab in the darkness"--that is, a situation of way too many possibilities, and you've got to start SOMEWHERE. We KNOW about life here. We DON'T KNOW about life anywhere else--and we don't really know all that much about life here. (The science of ecology, for instance--of understanding individual species IN CONTEXT--in the complex matrix of life that sustains them--is a very recent science. If you DON'T understand individual species IN CONTEXT, you end up extirpating them out of ignorance--the very tragic story of MOST of the species on earth during the industrial age. Social, political, commercial and scientific policy is only just beginning to apply ecological principles--saving ecosystems, not just individual plants or animals.)

Anyway, facing the vast Cosmos, how do you narrow down the search? You look first for places like Earth--the ONLY place that you KNOW life and sentience have arisen. It is the logical place to start. I really don't think it's arrogance.

There is also a communication problem. How do you communicate with non-carbon-based lifeforms (and even non-organiic ones), that might be sentient? It's natural that we would look for life that we have the potential to communicate with. And let's hope that, once we start doing so--and I think that that is inevitable, maybe even in my lifetime (--I'm very excited by NASA's recent announcements about warp drive math, and lab testing of it--we could, in the not too distant future, have the capability to leap through these vast, vast distances!)--let's hope that, once we start doing so, we will heed comments like yours, and those of others, warning us about our natural myopia--our prejudice toward the lifeforms that we recognize and understand, because they are like us.

We are not terribly far along that path either--shedding our prejudices toward those who are different within our own species. There are undoubtedly forms of life--even sentient life--elsewhere that we cannot even imagine, at this point. Our experience is so incredibly limited. Will we treat them like white Europeans treated Native Americans, the Polynesians, Native Africans and other such examples of regarding people who are different as not "human" (or not quite "human")? It is a very legitimate question. I think we ARE progressing on this matter, overall. And the brave and sometimes horrific struggles of various peoples and groups to achieve "human rights" have not been in vain. But it's an on-going struggle. It's not over. And it is quite exactly analogous to the human race discovering another sentient species. Will we even recognize them as "humans"? What is our criteria for THAT? And the more different they are from us, the harder it will be to see them as equals--deserving of "human rights."

But I don't think we can put this (xenophobia) on the scientists who are searching for life elsewhere. They are, if anything, the least prejudiced people on Planet Earth. They see things in MUCH bigger perspective than most of us. They know that we are not alone--that it is mathematically impossible that we are alone--and they are trying their best to end human xenophobia forever, by discovering life elsewhere.

They may not end it, of course--but I can't think of anything more likely to end human bigotry than the discovery that life on earth is not unique.

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Response to elias7 (Reply #10)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 07:05 PM

21. That Is A Really good Point

it does make us even more arrogant to believe life forms should be like us. Which is one of the reasons in my original post I used the word "beings" rather than "humans."

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 08:28 AM

2. Thanks so much for posting

I love this stuff. It offers an escape from the absolute crap that is going on in this country.

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 08:31 AM

3. It's beautiful.

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 08:36 AM

4. I for one welcome our new Overlords from Potentially Habitable Worlds

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 08:36 AM

5. "We live in a changing universe, and few things are changing faster than our conception of it."

Timothy Ferris

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 08:37 AM

6. The Drake Equation needs an update, again.

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 08:41 AM

7. well

we better find one soon. We're coming up on migration time, spell that abandon.

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 08:48 AM

8. Seems to be a high number of planets in the 'hot zone'...

Makes me wonder if their measurements are off a little. It would make our solar system an outlier since most of the planets are in the cold zone.

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Response to docgee (Reply #8)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 09:08 AM

9. Hot zone planets

are nearer to the star and have a smaller orbit/shorter period. This makes them more likely to be caught in a transit observation (the planet moving across the face of its star). For example, from the viewpoint of a nearby star, Earth would transit the Sun once a year, but Saturn would transit it only once every 30 years. Additionally, if the plane the planets are in is tilted from our perspectives, planets farther out might never transit while close in ones could clip the top or bottom of the star and be observable, even if not transiting fully.

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Response to getting old in mke (Reply #9)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 09:15 AM

11. Good points, so there's likely 5 or so times as many planets that we don't see yet. nt

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 09:35 AM

12. + Infinity!

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 09:38 AM

13. I'd like one with a nice view of nature and mild temperatures, please ...

Preferably inhabited by peaceful, sustainability oriented Liberal/Greens.

Thanks ~

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Response to Myrina (Reply #13)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 10:09 AM

15. That makes two of us.

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Response to Myrina (Reply #13)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 11:17 AM

19. I would like

one composed entirely of atolls sub-tropical beaches, locked in rotation so that is always roughly 4 pm in the most habitable region. And inhabitated exclusively by an inexplicably all-female species with a natural allergy to clothing.

Get to work, NASA!

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 09:42 AM

14. All the more reason not to make our presence known

More aliens, more likely that they would not be friendlies.

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Response to AngryAmish (Reply #14)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 10:26 PM

22. I think they know we're here

we're like a plague planet

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 11:00 AM

16. amazing

simply amazing

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 11:11 AM

17. My God? LOL, god didn't build that

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Response to agentS (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 10:49 PM

23. If you've seen the Men In Black movies our solar system is but a marble in an aliens' collection.

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