The existential notion of Earth-sized inhabitable exoplanets seems to be confronting our conventional understanding of the vast cosmos. However, the observations made by the Kepler spacecraft infer that one out of every five sun-like stars house an Earth-like planet within its “habitable zone” — area of space appropriately distanced from its host star likely to be comprising liquid water.
Observations made by Kepler, from its first mission, elucidates this possibility with the cutting-edge discovery of 20 potentially-habitable planets. The study is yet to be attested with further research and information, nevertheless it already seems to be quite promising.
Of these 20 exoplanets, many orbit stars like the Sun. Among them, there’s a planet having the longest orbit and an extensive 395 Earth-day year, while the shortest orbits its star in 18 Earth-days. Other inhabitable planets orbiting smaller stars are found to have much shorter “years” than what was found within this Kepler data.
The planet with a 395 Earth-day year, called KOI-7923.01, orbiting a star within the habitable zone, is most likely to have liquid water and harbor certain life-forms. In the words of Jeff Coughlin, a Kepler team lead, “If you had to choose one to send a spacecraft to, it’s not a bad option.”
As mentioned earlier, these 20 planets are yet to be verified as habitable. The expanse housing these planets had been observed by the Kepler craft for four years, and because many planets have such long orbits they are likely to have been observed for once or twice only.
This is also why, the planets, being observed, were seen during Kepler’s first mission, are only being announced now. With Hubble Space Telescope we can carry out further observations in years to come to confirm what we currently contemplate, and explore these planetary bodies, Coughlin avows.
Scientists will be able to more legitimately affirm whether these planets, especially KOI-7923.01, merit our shared ecstasy, when more information is compiled with the current Kepler’s data. Several inhabitable planets have been found before, but these planets could hold special astronomic significance.
The director of the Planetary Habitability Lab at Arecibo Observatory, Abel Mendez, links the significance of these newly discovered planets to both their Earth-like orbits and their Sun-like host stars.