The Kepler space telescope has identified a seven-planet system, Kepler-385, brimming with worlds larger than Earth.
Here’s everything NASA knows about Kepler-385
NASA‘s retired Kepler space telescope continues to illuminate the cosmos, revealing a system named Kepler-385 with seven planets, each receiving a greater amount of radiant heat from their star than any planet in our solar system.
Unlike our neighbouring planets, all seven are significantly larger than Earth yet smaller than Neptune, making Kepler-385 one of the few known systems with such a high number of large celestial bodies.
The comprehensive study of this data, led by NASA’s Ames Research Centre scientist Jack Lissauer, has produced the most precise catalogue of Kepler planet candidates to date.
This catalogue not only expands our cosmic atlas but also refines our understanding of these distant worlds’ characteristics.
At the heart of Kepler-385 is a star resembling our Sun, albeit slightly larger and hotter.
The system’s innermost planets are slightly more extensive than Earth, likely with rocky surfaces and potentially thin atmospheres. Meanwhile, the remaining five planets are about twice the size of Earth and are believed to be enveloped in dense atmospheres, a stark contrast to our home system.
The power of the Kepler space telescope
This level of detail about the Kepler-385 system’s properties underscores the data quality from the latest Kepler catalogue.
It provides a meticulous list of nearly 4 400 planet candidates, including over 700 systems with multiple planets. The catalogue not only emphasises the frequency of planets around other stars but also enhances the accuracy of information about each system’s characteristics.
Further insights into the orbital patterns within multi-planet systems have emerged from the catalogue’s improved stellar measurements.
It suggests that stars with several transiting planets typically have those planets in more circular orbits compared to systems with fewer planets.
Although Kepler’s primary mission concluded in 2013, its extended K2 mission yielded valuable data until 2018.
This treasure trove of information continues to deliver revelations about our galaxy. It has confirmed that planets outnumber stars and provided a clearer image of these planets’ appearances and the systems they inhabit.