THE FIRST SIX weeks of the latest NASA space mission has yielded thrilling results for scientists: 706 new candidate planets.
Of the planets found, 140 are said to be “earth-like”, prompting hopes of finding intelligent life in the universe.
The work is being conducted as part of the NASA’s Kepler Mission, which is sending a deep-space probe into space to search for habitable planets.
Scientists previously believed that planets outside our solar system, the Milky Way, would be gas-based giants like Jupiter or Saturn – and would therefore be unable to sustain life.
However, although the 140 planets discovered are yet to be examined for life (which will take some time), the discovery of so many solid worlds indicates that there may be other planets which contain water and would be able to support life.
So far just five of the planets have been formally named as planets by NASA; they are conducting investigations before confirming their status.
The probe works by using a 95-megapixel camera to monitor the brightness of more than 100,000 stars in the Milky Way. It is able to detect and analyse the characteristics of planets by studying changes in light emissions.
The Kepler Mission is due to run for four years.
“There is a lot more work we need to do with this, but the statistical result is loud and clear, and it is that planets like our own Earth are out there.”