"When we search for life outside our solar system we focus on finding planets with characteristics that mimic that of Earth", Elisa Quintana, from SETI Institute, said after Kepler's discovery of the first Earth-size planet.
Seven of the 10 newfound Earth-size planets circle stars that are just like ours, not cool dwarf ones that require a planet be quite close to its star for the right temperature.
The newest Kepler catalog draws out 219 new planetary candidates and infers that 10 of them may be habitable - doubling the number of planetary candidates in the habitable zone of their star.
A common refrain among tree-hugging, Al Gore-types is that we have to take care of our planet because it's the only one we've got. Kepler and Voyager missions have expanded our knowledge of what's out there. Essentially, half the planets that we know of in the galaxy are either rocky in nature and larger than Earth (i.e. Super-Earth's), or are gas giants that are comparable in size to Neptune (i.e. smaller gas giants).
The Kepler Telescope has made some wonderful discoveries since it was launched in 2009, but here are the top five findings.
Since the Kepler mission launched in 2009, it has identified and confirmed more than 2,300 exoplanets. The second size includes the gaseous Neptune-like planet or mini-Neptunes. Though a few planets fall into the gap, the majority do not.
The latest mission catalog of planet candidates is from the space telescope's first four years of data. Of which, 2,335 have been verified as exoplanets.
Fulton and his colleagues used the Keck Observatory in Hawaii to determine the size of 1,300 stars measured by Kepler, then used that data to calculate the size of the planet candidates the telescope had detected. The official catalog now contains 4,034 total "candidates" - tiny blips in the data that are thought to signal the presence of a planet around a star. "The hydrogen and helium that's in the balloon don't really contribute to the mass of the system as a whole, but it contributes to the volume in a tremendous way, making the planets a lot bigger in size". These characteristics make this planet candidate a potential place for living organisms to thrive. For now, there are only three planets within the Goldilocks Zone - Mars, Venus, and Earth.
"It's unbelievable, the things that Kepler has found", said Dr. Susan Thompson of the SETI Institute, who compiled the list. The issue is that the telescope could have misinterpreted luminosity signals, counting them as planets, or perhaps by counting the same planet a couple of times.