Kepler Discovers Hundreds of New Exoplanets

Tuesday, 10 May 2016 - 2:22PM
Space
Astronomy
Alien Life
Tuesday, 10 May 2016 - 2:22PM
Kepler Discovers Hundreds of New Exoplanets
In the biggest single announcement of exoplanets ever recorded, NASA's Kepler team has announced that they have unveiled 1,284 new exoplanets, 100 of which are roughly the size of Earth and nine of which are both Earth-sized and in their stars' habitable zones. 

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"This announcement more than doubles the number of confirmed planets from Kepler," said NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan in a statement. "This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth."
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Kepler Discovers Thousands of New Exoplanets

Kepler Discovers Thousands of New Exoplanets

For the new survey, the Kepler team analyzed the findings from the July 2015 planet catalog, and found more than four thousand potential planets. Of those potential planets, 1,284 have at least a 99% probability of being a planet, which is the minimum to be considered a "validated planet." Another 1,327 of the bodies are more likely than not to be planets, but we would need more evidence to verify their planetary status.

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"Before the Kepler space telescope launched, we did not know whether exoplanets were rare or common in the galaxy. Thanks to Kepler and the research community, we now know there could be more planets than stars," said NASA Astrophysics director Paul Hertz. "This knowledge informs the future missions that are needed to take us ever-closer to finding out whether we are alone in the universe."
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These planets were found using a large-scale statistical analysis that allows large numbers of celestial bodies to be studied at once, the likes of which has never been attempted before. But still, for the last four years Kepler has been looking at only one small patch of sky, consisting of approximately 150,000 stars, and has found over 3,000 verified exoplanets thus far. If those numbers are extrapolated to our entire galaxy, there could be tens of billions of potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way.

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"If you ask yourself where is the next habitable planet likely to be, it's within about 11 light-years, which is very close," Kepler mission scientist Dr Natalie Batalha told BBC.
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