May 24, 2019, at 8:25 p.m.
Updated May 24, 2019 20:25
A team of German scientists discovered 18 Earth-sized planets beyond the Solar System with a new method, the Max Planck Institute reported.
Between these worlds, one is the smallest found so far (69% of the size of our planet) and another could have the necessary conditions to shelter life, according to the statement of the institution.
Researchers say that these worlds have gone unnoticed by traditional methods because of their small size, because of the 4,000 known exoplanets, 96% are much larger than the Earth.
As you know, scientists use the transit method to find new planets: they look for drops in the star glow, this happens when an object passes in front of them. This procedure helps in the detection of large planets, because of their size they generate important variations in the brightness of the stars.
Difficulties arise when a smaller planet moves in front of its star: often its effect on brightness is imperceptible or confusing with the normal fluctuations of stars, which makes it difficult to detect.
"Our new algorithm helps to draw a more realistic picture of the population of exoplanets in space, which is an important step forward, especially in the search for Earth-like planets," said Michael Hippke of the Sonneberg Observatory, part of the study .
The researchers used data from the Kepler space telescope and, thanks to the new method, found the 18 planets, which are mostly the smallest of their systems.
Now they hope that by analyzing more Kepler data, they can find more than 100 Earth-sized worlds.