Through ongoing analysis of data from NASA’s now-retired Kepler space telescope, scientists have unveiled a remarkable system of seven scorching planets. These planets are bathed in an even more intense and radiant heat from their host star per unit area than any planet in our own solar system.
What makes this discovery even more intriguing is that all seven planets in this system, named Kepler-385, occupy a unique size category: they are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune, distinguishing them from our immediate planetary neighbors. Kepler-385 is a standout among planetary systems, being one of the rare few known to host more than six confirmed planets or planet candidates. This system is a prominent feature in a new Kepler catalog, which compiles data on nearly 4,400 planet candidates, including over 700 multi-planet systems, showcasing the richness and diversity of exoplanetary discoveries.
Jack Lissauer, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and the lead author of the publication introducing the new catalog, shared an exciting development in the field of exoplanetary research. He expressed, “We’ve compiled the most precise and comprehensive list of Kepler planet candidates and their attributes to date.” He emphasized the significance of NASA’s Kepler mission, which has played a pivotal role in uncovering the majority of known exoplanets. This updated catalog promises to be an invaluable resource for astronomers, enabling them to delve deeper into the characteristics and properties of these distant worlds, expanding our understanding of the cosmos.
The Kepler-385 system features a Sun-like star at its core, which is approximately 10% larger and 5% hotter than our own Sun. This system comprises seven planets in total. The first two planets, situated closest to the star, are slightly larger than Earth and are likely rocky, possibly with thin atmospheres. The remaining five planets are substantially larger, each having a radius approximately twice that of Earth. These larger planets are anticipated to be enveloped by dense, thick atmospheres. This diverse array of planets within the Kepler-385 system offers a fascinating glimpse into the diversity of planetary characteristics beyond our solar system.
Seven planets in a new list of planet candidates in the Kepler-385 system, discovered by the Kepler space telescope.
The ability to provide such intricate descriptions of the Kepler-385 system is a testament to the exceptional quality of the latest exoplanet catalog. While previous Kepler mission catalogs primarily aimed to determine the prevalence of planets around distant stars, this study takes a different approach by creating a comprehensive catalog that offers precise details about each planetary system, enabling discoveries like Kepler-385.
This new catalog benefits from improved measurements of stellar properties and more precise calculations of the orbital paths of transiting planets around their host stars. An intriguing finding is that when a star hosts multiple transiting planets, these planets tend to have more circular orbits compared to cases where a star hosts only one or two planets.
Although Kepler’s primary observations ceased in 2013, its extended mission, known as K2, continued until 2018. The data gathered by Kepler continues to unveil new insights about our galaxy. It has already demonstrated that there are more planets in the universe than stars, and this latest study provides a richer, more detailed perspective on these planets and their respective systems, offering a clearer view of the multitude of worlds beyond our own solar system.
The research article titled “Updated Catalog of Kepler Planet Candidates: Focus on Accuracy and Orbital Periods” is set to be published in The Journal of Planetary Science, further contributing to our understanding of exoplanetary systems.