Habitable Zone Exoplanets from NASA’s Kepler Mission

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#NASA #ExoplanetsHabitable Zone Exoplanets from NASA’s Kepler Mission : The primary objective of NASA’s Kepler mission is to determine how common rocky planets are in the habitable zone with the ability to detect Earth-size planets in Earth-like orbits around Sun-like stars being the primary driver for the design of the spacecraft and its observation strategy.

Assuming that our Earth is “typical” of life-bearing planets in the universe, this is the best place to start looking for habitable worlds outside of our solar system. Now that Kepler’s primary mission is completed, the processing and analysis of this huge data set is in full swing as the spacecraft continues on with the K2 extended mission.

While the discovery of thousands of extrasolar planets have been confirmed and thousands more candidates are currently being vetted as processing of Kepler’s huge data base continues, to date only a relative handful of these worlds have been found orbiting inside of the habitable zone (HZ) – the range of distances from a star where an Earth-like planet can maintain surface conditions which can support the presence of liquid water.

The Kepler Habitable Zone Working Group, consisting of selected members of the Kepler science team as well as key experts in the field outside the program, have been combing through the collection of Kepler finds to produce a catalog of HZ exoplanets to serve as a guide for the selection of promising targets for future study by scientists.

The first version of this catalog has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, The Astrophysical Journal, with astronomer Stephen Kane (San Francisco State University) as the lead author.

Diagram showing the major components of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. (NASA/Kepler Mission/Ball Aerospace)