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Picture of the Day

How many Earth-like planets are around sun-like stars?

A new study provides the most accurate estimate of the frequency that planets that are similar to Earth in size and in distance from their host star occur around stars similar to our sun. Knowing the rate that these potentially habitable planets occur will be important for designing future astronomical missions to characterize nearby rocky planets around sun-like stars that could support life. Thousands of planets have been discovered by NASA's Kepler space telescope. Kepler, which was launched in 2009 and retired by NASA in 2018 when it exhausted its fuel supply, observed hundreds of thousands of stars and identified planets outside of our solar system -- exoplanets -- by documenting transit events. Transits events occur when a planet's orbit passes between its star and the telescope, blocking some of the star's light so that it appears to dim. By measuring the amount of dimming and the duration between transits and using information about the star's properties astronomers characterize the size of the planet and the distance between the planet and its host star.

Visit Website | Image credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/W. Stenzel/D. Rutter