A team of German scientists discovered 18 planets the size of Earth beyond the Solar System with a new method, the Max Planck Institute reported.
According to the communiqué of the institution, among these worlds one is the smallest found so far (69% of the size of our planet) and another could have the necessary conditions to house life.
The researchers claim that these worlds went unnoticed by traditional methods due to their small size, since of the 4,000 known exoplanets, 96% are much larger than Earth.
As is known, scientists use the transit method to find new planets: they look for drops in the brightness of the stars, this happens when an object passes in front of them. This procedure helps in the detection of large planets, because due to their size they generate important variations in the brightness of the stars.
The difficulties arise when a smaller planet moves in front of its star: often its effect on the brightness is imperceptible or confused with the normal fluctuations of the stars, which makes its detection difficult.
“Our new algorithm helps to draw a more realistic picture of the exoplanet population in space, which is an important step forward, especially in the search for Earth-like planets,” said Michael Hippke of the Sonneberg Observatory, who part of the study.
The researchers used data obtained by 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 worlds the size of Earth.