An international team of astronomers led by the University of Arizona (USA) has discovered – and confirmed – 104 new worlds using NASA’s Kepler spacecraft within its K2 mission. Among the more than 100 confirmed planets there is a planetary system with 4 planets that could be rocky.
According to the analysis of the data from the Kepler mission, they are between 20-50% larger than Earth and lie 181 light years away in the constellation Aquarius. The planets orbit a dwarf star, M K2-72, which is less than half the size of our Sun. Their orbital periods appear to range from 5.5 to 24 days , and two of these planets could have irradiance levels of its star very similar to the ones we have on Earth.
This treasure trove of planets has been made possible by combining data with follow-up observations from ground-based telescopes. Kepler, which is in a second stage of its life, is still as fruitful as ever. The spacecraft now covers more of the sky, as it is able to observe a greater fraction of red dwarf stars, very common in the Milky Way.
“ The original Kepler mission conducted a demographic study, while the K2 mission focuses on nearby bright stars with different types of planets. This approach effectively means that the K2 mission allows us to increase the number of small red stars by a factor of 20 in the study, ”clarifies Ian Crossfield, leader of the work.
To validate these planets, initially 197 candidates, the astronomers obtained high-resolution images of the stars that host planets, as well as high-resolution optical spectroscopy data that finally allowed the 104 new worlds to be determined.
The study has been published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.