Science

Astronomers Identify Nearly 2,000 Nearby Stars That Could Be Home To Earth-Like Planets

A team of astronomers has identified nearly 2,000 stars set to be studied for habitable, Earth-like exoplanets.

The astronomers -- hailing from Cornell, Lehigh and Vanderbilt universities -- have narrowed their search down from a whopping 250,000 stars.

The search will employ NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which is capable of scanning 85 percent of the entire sky.

Instruments aboard the satellite are sensitive enough to spot Earth-size planets that may be orbiting around 1,823 of those identified stars.

Astronomers Identify Nearly 2,000 Nearby Stars That Could Be Home To Earth-Like Planets

"Our ambition is to not only detect hundreds of Earth-like worlds in other solar systems, but to find them around our closest neighboring solar systems," Stevenson Professor of Physics and Astronomy Keivan Stassun said in a statement.

'In a few years' time, we may very well know that there are other out there, with breathable atmospheres.'

Among the factors key to NASA's search for habitable exoplanets are their proximity to the orbiting star as well as the type of star.

In a statement researchers said they will observe 'bright, cool, dwarfs' with the closest being four light-years away.

In the event that TESS identifies a planet with an atmosphere similar to Earth's, researchers say the next step -- figuring out whether or not it already contains life -- will be trickier task.

Identifying life for some further out and colder planets considered to be outside what is known as the 'habitable zone' would likely require flying to the planet's surface.

Astronomers Identify Nearly 2,000 Nearby Stars That Could Be Home To Earth-Like Planets

'We won't yet know whether there is anything, or anyone, there breathing it. Still, this is a remarkable time in human history and a huge leap for our understanding of our place in the universe,' said Stassun.

Last year, TESS was launched on its two-year mission where it will map 26 segments of the sky.

In its first year of operation, it mapped the 13 sectors that make up the southern sky and this year, it will soon scour the northern sectors.

The high-powered device, which was launched by a rocket from Elon Musk's SpaceX, shared its first images in August last year -- a blanket of stars rendered in never-before-seen clarity.