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Kepler Findings: NASA Announces Discovery of More Than 1,200 New Alien Planets

Our universe is truly an amazing, awe-inspiring, and enormous place.

Jolene CreightonMay 10th 2016

A New Announcement

NASA just announced that they have found 1,284 new planets. This is the most exoplanets that have ever been announced at one time, and it doubles the number of known Kepler exoplanets (informally known as ‘alien planets’).

“This announcement more than doubles the number of known exoplanets,” says Timothy Morton, associate research scholar at Princeton University, and a member of the study.

When one considers that, just a few short decades ago, we didn’t know of any confirmed planets that existed beyond our own solar system, the news is simply staggering. The discovery is more than 99% reliable.

And most amazingly, more than 100 are thought to be rocky Earth-sized worlds.

A chart showing which of the new, Earth-like planets fall within their star’s habitable zone. Orange represents the newly-found planets, blue are previously discovered. Credit: NASA/Kepler

The Age of Kepler

Back in March 2009, when Kepler was launched, scientists didn’t know how common alien planets were outside our solar system. But soon, the telescope revealed that almost all stars host a plethora of alien worlds.

Then, in 2014, the spacecraft began a new, extended mission called K2. During its prime mission alone, Kepler discovered:

  • 4,696 candidate exoplanets
  • 1,041 confirmed exoplanets
  • 12 confirmed exoplanets roughly Earth-sized in the habitable zone of their stars

Indeed, because of data brought back from these missions, astronomers believe there may be at least one planet orbiting every star in the sky. K2 continues to search for exoplanets, while introducing new research opportunities to study young stars, supernovae, and other cosmic phenomena.

These latest announcements just add to the amazing discoveries that NASA has already made. With the forthcoming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA hopes to be able to detect the atmospheric composition of some of these new planets—another step toward finding life elsewhere in the universe.

Chart showing the size ranges of the newly-discovered exoplanets.  Many of the planets are less than Neptune-sized, with most falling in the Earth to super-Earth range. Credit: NASA/Kepler
Chart showing the size ranges of the newly-discovered exoplanets. Many of the planets are less than Neptune-sized, with most falling in the Earth to super-Earth range. Credit: NASA/Kepler
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