A lovely end to a long day and a hard week.
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NASA’s Kepler space telescope has discovered more than 700 new exoplanets, nearly doubling the current number of confirmed alien worlds.
The 715 newfound planets, which scientists announced today (Feb. 26), boost the total alien-world tally to between 1,500 and 1,800, depending on which of the five main extrasolar planet discovery catalogs is used. The Kepler mission is responsible for more than half of these finds, hauling in 961 exoplanets to date, with thousands more candidates awaiting confirmation by follow-up investigations.
"This is the largest windfall of planets — not exoplanet candidates, mind you, but actually validated exoplanets — that’s ever been announced at one time," Douglas Hudgins, exoplanet exploration program scientist at NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington, told reporters today.
About 94 percent of the new alien worlds are smaller than Neptune, researchers said, further bolstering earlier Kepler observations that suggested the Milky Way galaxy abounds with rocky planets like Earth.
Most of the 715 exoplanets orbit closely to their parent stars, making them too hot to support life as we know it. But four of the worlds are less than 2.5 times the size of Earth and reside in the “habitable zone,” that just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces.
(via scinerds)Source: kenobi-wan-obi