NASA scientists have discovered 20 habitable worlds

NASA scientists have discovered 20 habitable worlds

As much as some people don't want to hear it, the likes of Elon Musk and almost every space film ever have opened up our eyes to the reality that one day, the human species will have to pack up their things, hop on a spacecraft and relocate to another planet. This becomes an especially more pressing issue if we keep sucking all the oil out of the ground and polluting the air, slowly sizzling our own planet through global warming.

Luckily, we've got NASA and other space agencies around the world scouting locations for our eventual big move. And after a new discovery of a group of new planets, it looks like the options aren't too shabby at all.

Little did we know there were quite so many habitable worlds out there. NASA has confirmed that their space telescope Kepler has just found 20 potentially habitable worlds, and it's something to get excited about.

Kepler is the space observatory launched in 2009 whose mission is to discover Earth-sized planets orbiting other stars. NASA has analysed a new batch of data from Kepler, and it has revealed the cluster of new worlds which look promising enough to possibly host life.

Among the 20 are several planets that orbit stars, just as our Earth does around our sun. Some of them take a long time to complete a single orbit – the longest taking 395 Earth days to go once around their sun. The discovery of this expoplanet – named a sexy KOI-7923.01 – is most exciting, as the fact that it has an orbit only 30 days longer than Earth means it's very promising for life.

Jeff Coughlin, a team leader working with Kepler to find the potential planets said KOI-7923.01 is 97 per cent the size of Earth, but a bit colder. This is because it's a bit further from its star than we are from ours, plus KOI-7923.01's sun is comparably slightly cooler. It's likely that the planet has more tundra regions like on Earth rather than temperate one. But still, the exoplanet is still warm enough and large enough to hold liquid water.

“If you had to choose one to send a spacecraft to, it’s not a bad option,” says Coughlin.

The other orbiting planets are taking weeks or months to circle their stars, and the fastest orbit is 18 Earth days. These orbit times are very different to other habitable planets discovered in the past few years who have very short "years" due to their smaller stars.

But before you start packing your bags for a new human settlement on KOI-7923.01, know that the NASA team admit that more observations need to be made before their findings can be confirmed. While Coughlin says the team is 70 to 80 percent sure these 20 potentially habitable worlds are solid candidates, they've only caught a glimpse of these planets once or twice due to their long orbits, and some of the signals they're reading from are a bit wobbly.

The extra observations will be made from ground-based observatories or another space telescope roaming the stars called Hubble, and it'll take a few more years to double check their suspicions about these new 20 extraterrestrial worlds.

“I believe that this is a much improved catalogue so I’m eager to explore it further,” says Abel Mendez, director of the Planetary Habitability Lab at Arecibo Observatory. He said that if it's confirmed that these planets do have such long years and sun-like stars, they would be some of the most promising worlds out there to host life.

I, for one, am excited about the findings nevertheless. Let's just hope there are no alien settlements there already.