'We are not alone': Nasa has discovered 10 new rocky Earth-like planets

Ross McGuinness

Ten new planets similar to Earth have been discovered by Nasa.

The planets were found by a telescope and are probably the right size and temperature to potentially have life on them, scientists said.

They were among 219 new planets identified by the Kepler telescope, Nasa announced.

Kepler scientist Mario Perez said the breakthrough means that ‘we are probably not alone’ because four years of data show how common Earth-like planets can be.

Nasa said several of the ten new potentially habitable planets circle stars similar in size to our sun.

Seven of the Earth-size planets circle stars that are just like ours, not cool dwarf ones that require a planet to be quite close to its star for the right temperature.

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That does not mean the planets have life, but some of the most basic requirements that life needs are there, upping the chances for life.

‘Are we alone? Maybe Kepler today has told us indirectly, although we need confirmation, that we are probably not alone,’ Kepler scientist Mario Perez said in a news conference.

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The 10 Goldilocks planets are part of 219 new candidate planets that Nasa announced as part of the final batch of planets discovered in the main mission since the telescope was launched in 2009.

It was designed to survey part of the galaxy to see how frequent planets are and how frequent Earth-size and potentially habitable planets are.

Kepler’s main mission ended in 2013 after the failure of two of its four wheels that control its orientation in space.

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Circling sun-like stars make the planets ‘even more interesting and important’, said Alan Boss, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution, who was not part of the Kepler team.

One of those planets – KOI7711 – is the closest analogue to Earth astronomers have seen in terms of size and the energy it gets from its star, which dictates temperatures.

Before Kepler was launched, astronomers had hoped that the frequency of Earth-like planets would be about one per cent of the stars.

The talk among scientists at a Kepler conference in California this weekend is that it is closer to 60%.

Kepler is not the only way astronomers have found exoplanets and even potentially habitable ones.

Between Kepler and other methods, scientists have now confirmed more than 3,600 exoplanets and found about 62 potentially habitable planets .

‘This number could have been very, very small,’ said Caltech astronomer Courtney Dressing. ‘I, for one, am ecstatic.’