UBC graduate student finds 17 new planets, one potentially Earth-like

What was your biggest accomplishment in university?

Odds are, it doesn’t stack up to finding 17 new planets, including one that could potentially support life.

That’s the remarkable line item that UBC physics and astronomy PhD candidate Michelle Kunimoto recently added to her resume by digging through data from NASA’s Kepler mission.

The Kepler Space Telescope spent more than nine years hunting for planets outside of our solar system, with an emphasis on those in the habitable so-called “Goldilocks zone” around stars. More than 2,600 such exoplanets have been discovered through the mission.

Kunimoto’s additions to that list were recently published in the The Astronomical Journal, and were found using what’s known as the “transit method.”

The technique involves measuring the decrease in a star’s brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it.

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