The Habitable Zones around stars with different surface temperatures. The figure also shows an artist’s rendering of the planetary candidates and confirmed Kepler planets that are smaller than twice the size of Earth. For comparison, Venus, Earth, and Mars are also shown. Image courtesy of UH

The Habitable Zones around stars with different surface temperatures. The figure also shows an artist’s rendering of the planetary candidates and confirmed Kepler planets that are smaller than twice the size of Earth. For comparison, Venus, Earth, and Mars are also shown. Image courtesy of UH

A team of astronomers known as the Kepler Habitable Zone Working Group, including University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy astronomer Nader Haghighipour, has identified which of the more than 4,000 exoplanets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission are most likely to be similar to our rocky home, as reported by UH.

The research describes 49 Kepler-discovered planets with radii smaller than twice that of Earth (a criterion for the planet to be rocky) located within the habitable zones of their host stars — an area around a star where a rocky planet can maintain liquid water on its surface. Of these planets, 20 are excellent candidates for habitable rocky planets similar to Earth. The work is detailed in the article “A catalog of Kepler habitable zone exoplanet candidates” for Astrophysical Journal led by Stephen Kane of San Francisco University.

“After more than three years analyzing Kepler data, we have created the most complete catalog of Kepler Habitable Zone planets, with the largest number of rocky planets that could potentially harbor life,” Haghighipour said. The list contains a total of 216 planets with different sizes, some much larger than Earth.

Universe Teeming with Planets Where Life Could Exist

Watercolor by Lielzo Azambuja, 2002

Watercolor by Lielzo Azambuja, 2002