Spotted: 1284 new exoplanets, thanks to new method of verifying Kepler's discoveries

Kepler Just Doubled the Number of Confirmed Exoplanets in Our Galaxy

They said their Kepler space telescope had turned up nine more planets suitable for human habitation.

"This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth", said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The nearest potentially habitable planet is approximately 11 light years from Earth.

"They say not to count our chickens before they're hatched, but that's exactly what these results allow us to do based on probabilities that each egg (candidate) will hatch into a chick (bona fide planet)", said Dr Batalha.

The new method essentially places a probability percentage to each Kepler candidate using automated computation.

During its July 2015 planet candidate catalog, Kepler identified 4,302 potential planets by observing the subtle decreases in brightness that occur when a planet passes in front of its star. NASA reported that this is the "single largest finding of planets to date". Furthermore, according to Kepler mission scientists; there are at least 70 billion main sequence stars in the galaxy, which implies there are about tens of billions of Earth sized potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way.

"Planet candidates can be thought of like bread crumbs", said Timothy Morton, a scholar at Princeton University. His method is based on previous ones, where an analysis would take into account existing knowledge of how common binary stars are, for instance, to rule them out among the heaps of data from Kepler. But, if you spill a whole bucket of tiny crumbs, you're going to need a broom. Another 1,327 possible sightings were deemed highly probable to be planets and will be studied further. Discovery of the exoplanets more than doubles the number found by Kepler.

The remaining 707 are more likely to be some other astrophysical phenomena, the space agency said while making the announcement on May 10. Nine of these exoplanets orbit in their stars' "Goldilocks Zones", the region around a star that has just the right conditions for liquid water to be found on the planet's surface.

American Space Station NASA has announced on Tuesday the discovery of 1,284 new planets outside the solar system.

The Kepler telescope, named after astronomer Johannes Kepler, was launched on 7 March 2009.

Some 1,284 new planets outside our solar system have been confirmed, including almost 550 that could be Earth-sized and rocky.

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