Kepler finds 104 exoplanets in the largest single haul of confirmed planets

exoplanet haul transits2 on starfield editable 02 20x30
The Kepler spacecraft telescope. NASA
The largest ever haul of exoplanets has been announced by an international team of scientists using images gathered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. A total of 104 planets out of 197 original candidates have been confirmed, with four of those offering promise as potentially rocky, habitable worlds. The astronomers, led by a team at the University of Arizona, published their findings this week in Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.

Oddly enough, the finding was facilitated by technical trouble with the telescope, which trails Earth’s orbit, peering into space in search of Earth-sized exoplanets near habitable zones.

Depiction of the confirmed exoplanets in their respective fields, with an artist's rendition of Kepler and a rocky planet to the right.
Depiction of the confirmed exoplanets in their respective fields, with an artist’s rendition of Kepler and a rocky planet to the right. NASA

“Kepler’s malfunction necessitated a change in mission strategy, from a long-term survey of a small patch of sky to a set of shorter-duration observations of a much wider fraction of the sky,” the paper’s lead author, Ian Crossfield, told Digital Trends. “This new K2 observing strategy means that we find planets with shorter ‘years,’ but the planets we find tend to orbit stars closer to the Earth.” These target stars are relatively bright, enabling more refined study and understanding of their systems.

The four promising exoplanets orbit K2-72, a cool, red, dwarf star 181 light years from Earth that’s about half the size of our sun. The planets themselves are between 20 and 50 percent larger than Earth.

“From studying other planetary systems, we know that these sizes mean that the odds are good that all four of these planets are rocky,” Crossfield said. “Although some of these planets receive roughly the same amount of starlight from their star as Earth does from the Sun, we know nothing about these planets’ atmospheres … and so can’t be sure which of these might be as temperate as the Earth, or which might be inhospitable, infernal greenhouse planets like Venus.”

In order to confirm that the data did indeed depict planets, scientists collected high-resolution images of target stars using an array of telescope around the world. Optical spectroscopy data allowed the astronomers to determine the stars’ properties and infer the properties of the planets in their orbit.

Exciting in its own right, the finding also paves the way for NASA’s future exoplanet hunting missions, including the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite that is set to launch in December 2017 and the James Webb Space Telescope that is scheduled to begin operations in October 2018.

Emerging Tech

Life after launch: Inside the massive effort to preserve NASA’s space artifacts

The Apollo 11 mission put a man on the moon, but NASA didn’t necessarily preserve every step of the process. Researchers are trying to rescue the history on Earth and on the moon.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers have spotted a moon forming around a proto-Jupiter

Astronomers have spotted a young planet with a disk of gas and dust around it which is similar to the one from which the moons of Jupiter were born. The planet PDS 70 b is in the process of forming and is located 370 light-years away.
Emerging Tech

Russia launches X-ray observatory capable of locating thousands of black holes

Russia has finally launched its powerful X-ray observatory, Spektr-RG, after a delay caused by faulty batteries on board the spacecraft. The launch took place at 5:30 a.m. PT on Saturday, July 13, taking off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Emerging Tech

Orbiter spots Curiosity from space, shows our rover friend on surface of Mars

If you've been wondering how Curiosity is faring on Mars, now you can see for yourself, thanks to a new image of the rover captured from orbit by NASA's HiRISE camera, an instrument aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Emerging Tech

Genetically modified plants could help get to the root of climate change

Researchers have been investigating ways to engineer plants so that they grow with more robust and deeper roots, capable of storing increasing amounts of carbon underground for longer.
Photography

With object tracking, the lightweight DJI Ronin-SC is still heavy on features

Designed for mirrorless cameras, the DJI Ronin-SC packs several features from the Ronin-S -- and then some -- into a lighter, one-handed gimbal. Despite the smaller size, the DJI Ronin-S adds new object tracking and expanded remote control.
Emerging Tech

IBM’s Wimbledon-watching A.I. is poised to revolutionize sports broadcasts

IBM has developed a smart A.I. with an appreciation for what makes a great tennis match like the recent epic at Wimbledon. Here's how IBM developed it -- and why tools like it are the future of sport broadcasting.
News

SpaceX’s Starhopper rocket bursts into flames during tests

SpaceX ran into trouble Tuesday evening when a small fire erupted from the engine of a prototype rocket it was testing at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas. It's not clear if the fire caused any damage to the rocket itself
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here's all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Emoji Day, Apollo 11 broadcast, drone flamethrowers

On this episode of DT Live, we discuss the top stories in tech, including Emoji Day festivities, the extended battery life of the new Nintendo Switch, an Apollo 11 real-time broadcast, and a functional flamethrower attachment for drones.
Emerging Tech

6 questions we have about Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain interface technology

Elon Musk's Neuralink sounds like an exciting leap forward for human-computer relations, but brain implants raise the specter of Black Mirror-esque privacy invasions. We have a few questions about how this would work.
News

Canadian medical project demonstrates the health care potential of smart homes

A medical project involving smart homes demonstrates the technology's potential in treating mental illness and providing patients with a level of independence previously thought impossible.
Emerging Tech

Implant restores sight in blind patients by beaming images directly to the brain

Engineers have developed a neural implant which could help restore vision for completely blind people by bypassing non-functioning optical nerves and inputting images directly into their brains.
Deals

Ride in style with the Xiaomi Mi electric scooter for $97 less post-Prime Day

Scooters started out as a plaything for kids. But now they are larger and have become a common and efficient means to commute, like the Xiaomi Mi electric scooter. It's available on Amazon as a post-Prime Day deal for $97 less.