Good old manual search found the most Earth-like planet in Kepler’s old data

Good old manual search found the most Earth-like planet in Kepler’s old data

As intelligent as Artificial Intelligence might be, there are things that only humans can do. A computer algorithm might do better measurements than humans, but it can’t interpret beyond the limit of its algorithm. As humans, we have the power of finding meaning in things, even in those that have none, and we can see way beyond what is visible. We can understand and find reason even for the irrational. We believe in God and aliens. No computer could do that.

With life – thus the Universe – being so unpredictable, NASA second-guessed Robovetter and put Kepler False Positive Working Group to manually check for its misinterpretations. And NASA was right to do so. The team found a false positive that proved to be the closest thing to a second Earth.

Let’s make some light. Keppler telescope gathered 9 years of data about the cosmos. It is responsible for finding a great number of systems and exoplanets from the total amount of 3.074 systems and 4144 planets. This is when Robovetter proved necessary to analyze the data and find the exoplanets. The algorithm was supposed to use the Transit Method. This means it searched for changes in star’s brightness and decide whether the dim was caused by a planet orbiting the star or by any other reason.

When it discovered the red dwarf Kepler-1649, 302 light-years away from Earth, Robovetter dismissed the star’s dim considering it a false positive. Wrong! Kepler-1649c was found to be the most Earth-like planet Kepler found so far.

The team second-guessing the algorithm found Kepler-1649c to have 1.06 Earth masses and to receive 75% as much light as Earth does from the Sun. This means it has almost the same dimension and temperature. The temperature is highly important as it can be seen as a sign of the planet’s possibility to hold liquid water. But, hold your horses, this isn’t more than a presumption.

The planet’s orbital period in the habitable zone, the fact that yet another planet (dubbed Kepler-1649b) was found orbiting even closer to Kepler-1649, just like our Venus, made astronomers ecstatic. They are dreaming of finding Kepler-1649’s Mercury, another planet even closer to that red dwarf. That would make Kepler-1649b even more similar to Earth and maybe it’ll be called the third planet from the red sun. Speaking of a red sun, Kepler-1649 makes life on Kepler-1649b pretty impossible. A red dwarf has pretty wild stellar flare-ups that come along with coronal mass ejection that create unfriendly irradiance for life as we know it.

Nevertheless, this is all great news!

“The more data we get, the more signs we see pointing to the notion that potentially habitable and Earth-size exoplanets are common around these kinds of stars. With red dwarfs almost everywhere around our galaxy, and these small, potentially habitable and rocky planets around them, the chance one of them isn’t too different than our Earth looks a bit brighter,” said Dr. Andrew Vanderburg, a NASA Sagan Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin.



Jeffrey likes to write about health and fitness topics, being a champion fitness instructor in the past.

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