Science, Now + Beyond

Scientists have discovered a bunch of new planets – including ones that could support life

It's official: we're not alone in the universe.

Astronomers from all over the world banded together to complete long term and wide ranging survey of observable space. The scientists analyzed data captured over a twenty year period from a high resolution echelle spectrometer in an observatory in Hawaii. The analysis led to the discovery of 60 new planets!! The data also indicated that there may be as many as 54 other planets in this area, but further observation would be necessary to classify them as planets. The data gathered includes over 61,000 individual observations of over 1,600 stars.

One of the planets discovered showed especially promising conditions for supporting life. The planet was hotter than Earth, but not hot enough to prohibit life from thriving. The planet was deemed a ‘Super-Earth’. This ‘Super-Earth’ orbits a star called Gliese 411, which is in the star system that is fourth closest to the sun.

Another discovery made from analysis of the data is that many of the planets are orbiting stars within their star systems, similar to the way that the Earth orbits the sun. Prior to this survey, astronomers theorized that planets in these systems might be orbiting stars, but there was not enough data to confirm the theory. UNTIL NOW.

This means that there are probably multiple solar systems like ours throughout space that function similarly to our own. Scientists are also beginning to believe that each of these star systems may have an Earth-like planet capable of sustaining life. It makes sense that each star system would contain a planet orbiting the central star at a distance that would create a climate capable of supporting life.

This is really exciting information for scientists and alien conspiracy theorists alike. Though it will be a long time before researchers can gather data about the actual climate conditions on these planets, it’s one step closer to proving we are not alone in the universe.

The high resolution echelle spectrometer will continue to collect data over time and scientists will continue to analyze the data to get more information on these new planets. Paired with other space exploration projects like the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which is scheduled to launch in 2018, this data will help give scientists more information about space than we’ve ever had access to before.