Scientists have been analysing data from the K2 Kepler telescope and think they've discovered almost 100 new planets outside of our solar system. Andrew Mayo, who works at the National Space Institute, explained “We started out analysing 275 candidates of which 149 were validated as real exoplanets. In turn 95 of these planets have proved to be new discoveries.” The science behind the discoveries is complex and its far from an exact science. Candidate planets ping the radar when the measurements of the shadow created when the globe crosses its host star is just right. Then, Danish and Japanese scientists take a much closer look to check the signals are coming from an exoplanet and not signals from other spacecraft and bam. We have a new planet.
The original Kepler space craft started its mission in 2009 with the intent to scan the universe for the planets. It crashed and burned after just four years when a mechanical failure disrupted the mission, and the K2 is having much more success. Mayo went on to tell us why exoplanets are so exciting “As more planets are discovered, astronomers will develop a much better picture of the nature of exoplanets, which in turn will allow us to place our own solar system into a galactic context.” Some of the planets range from smaller than Earth to the size of Jupiter and even larger and they may contain life unlike our own planet. The next missions in the pipeline involve examining the rockier, Earth-sized planets which could support life to see if we're alone out there. But how will we react?
Well I'm glad you asked. Professor Michael Varnum did a study with 500 participants and grilled them using a fake announcement of extraterrestrial life. He announced his findings at the conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin, Texas and found there were a lot more positive responses to the discovery of alien life than negative. Participants viewed alien life as holding more potential rewards than risks, and the study in Frontiers of Psychology is using the data to speculate about how we might all react when faced with the reality of aliens. "If our findings provide a reasonable guide, then the answer appears to be that we will take it rather well.” Alien microbes? Sure. 7 foot tall grey men? No thank you.