From the November 2014 issue

Web Extra: The next search for Earth-like worlds

The Kepler spacecraft discovered thousands of exoplanets. Now astronomers are trying to find out if any might harbor life.
By | Published: November 24, 2014 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Using the Kepler space telescope, scientists have found about 100 possible planets orbiting in their stars’ habitable zones, regions where liquid water could survive on planetary surfaces. The next steps in exoplanet searches will bring astronomers closer to finding worlds that host life.
Thousands of candidate exoplanets have emerged in the decades since astronomers first found worlds around other stars. Only a few of those are planets humans might recognize as resembling our Earth. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft found many of these.

Astronomers now want to find Earth-like planets orbiting in the habitable zones of their stars — the region where liquid surface water can exist. Then, their instruments will sniff out atmospheric compositions searching for gases that shouldn’t be there, like oxygen. Such a find might provide the first evidence of life on another world. Learn more about this search with Liz Kruesi’s “The next search for Earth-like worlds.”

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