Stephan Mathieu’s RADIANCE project continues apace, with the latest release titled ‘Kepler’ in honour of the 17th-century mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer Johannes Kepler. Meanwhile, professional and citizen scientists continue to analyse the data captured by the Kepler spacecraft, an observatory designed to survey distant stars for evidence of Earth-like planets. To date, more than 2,300 exoplanets (planets orbiting a star other than the Sun) have been discovered using the Kepler data.
Above is a gallery of artist’s conceptions of planets discovered using the Kepler spacecraft. Although they may resemble works of science fiction, the existence of the worlds they depict has been confirmed by observing the dips in light output caused when the planets pass in front of their host star. These observations would have been impossible without the work done by Johannes Kepler in the early 17th century, and they have transformed our understanding of our place in the Universe: we now know for sure that Earth-sized planets are common in our corner of the galaxy.
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Images courtesy of NASA. To learn more about the Kepler mission, see the Kepler mission website.