NASA’s Kepler mission, a space observatory launched by the space agency to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars, has announced the discovery of 715 new planets.
According to NASA, these newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much similar to the solar system.
Nearly 95 per cent of these planets, outside our solar system, are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth, it said
John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington said, “The Kepler team continues to amaze and excite us with their planet hunting results.”
Kepler, launched in March 2009, is the first NASA mission to find potentially habitable Earth-size planets. The discoveries of Kepler include more than 3,600 planet candidates, of which 961 have been verified as bona-fide worlds.
Since the discovery of the first planet, two decades ago, outside our solar system, verification has been a laborious planet-by-planet process.
NASA scientists have a statistical technique that can be applied to many planets at once when they are found that harbor more than one planet around the same star. To verify this bounty of planets, a research team analyzed stars with more than one potential planet, all of which were detected in the first two years of Kepler’s observations i.e. May 2009 to March 2011.
The research team was co-led by Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California,
Kepler observes 1,50,000 stars and found a few thousand of those to have planet candidates. Kepler, named after the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, observed hundreds of stars that have multiple planet candidates out of which 715 new planets were verified.
The latest discovery by Kepler brings the confirmed count of planets outside our solar system to nearly 1,700.