Jan 13, 2015 02:22 PM EST
How many planets like our Earth are out there in space? Well, while the possibilities are endless, and with the vast expanses of the universe the search may be endless. But thanks to NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, researchers have to date discovered 1,000 Earth-like exoplanets that seem to fit the bill. And in celebration of the record-breaking discovery, researchers at NASA are giving the public a view of what life on these exoplanets inhabited by humans might just look like-with a vintage feel.
Continuously monitoring more than 150,000 stars beyond our solar system, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has been one of the most successful missions the space agency has produced to date. The millenary milestone this month arrived after validating that eight more of the Earth-like exoplanets are in fact planets. But they're not the only ones the Kepler team is talking about. In addition to confirming the 1,000 planet, the team also has added 554 more candidates to the pool, six of which are Earth-like in size and are in habitable zones outside of their respective stars.
And of the newly added eight, three bear a particular resemblance to our very own Earth, even down to the potential of having liquid water available-a staple for the creation of life.
"Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler mission's treasure trove of data takes us another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe," Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington, John Grunsfeld says. "The Kepler team and its science community continue to produce impressive results with the data from this venerable explorer."
To date, NASA's Kepler team has raised the exoplanet Earth-like candidate count to 4,175. But three of their most hopeful candidates in particular were chosen as the shining stars of NASA's newest venture.
Beginning an Exoplanet Travel Series of retrofuturistic lithographs, the three planets Kepler-186f, Kepler-16b and HD 40307g are the shining stars of NASA's view of a habitable universe-or perhaps shining planets is a better depiction.
"With each new discovery of these small, possibly rocky worlds, our confidence strengthens in the determination of the true frequency of planets like Earth," co-author of NASA's newest Kepler study and SETI Institute Kepler scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Doug Caldwell says. "The day is on the horizon when we'll know how common temperate, rocky planets like Earth are."
But the life and adventure depicted on these three new planets is far from what we'd expect to find here on Earth. In fact, each of the three has its own unique terrain that would make them all wondrous locations for futuristic adventures.
Kepler-186f is the first Earth-size planet discovered around another star in the potentially "habitable zone" where liquid water might reside. But since its star is far cooler, and therefore redder, than our Sun researchers predict that if flora does exist on Kepler-186f that it uses a different color wavelength for its means of photosynthesis. In fact, rather than greens, the planet may host forests of red trees, in an eternally autumnal world dominated by red-wavelength photons near a far-off star.
HD 40307g's most notable characteristic is its size. Twice as large as Earth, and eight times the mass of the Earth, researchers know that the gravitational pull is much stronger making flight a near impossibility. A jump would be rather difficult there, but the low-hanging fog of its atmosphere may be a sight to be seen.
Kepler-16b, finally, is every Star Wars fan's dream. Much akin to Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine, the planet orbits a pair of stars meaning that two Suns dominate the sky each day. And though it's depicted much as a terrestrial giant, researchers still believe that the massive exoplanet may also be a gas giant, much like Saturn.
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