Since the launch of the Kepler mission, it has discovered 1,284 planets, the most number of exoplanets determined at a single time. These new planets were confirmed as real planets through NASA’s in-depth analysis. The news was announced by Princeton associate research scholar Timothy Morton during a NASA press conference.
The latest discovery doubles the number of the planets previously confirmed by Kepler. The Kepler mission was made possible by the large Kepler telescope launched to space in March 2009. The goal of Kepler through the years has been to discover more Earth-like planets, or “goldilocks,” which lies in a star’s habitable zone. The desirable condition in the habitable zone will make the existence of water in the planet’s surface possible. Thus, the planet will have the initial requirement to host life.
Earth-like planets outside the solar system are about 1.6 times the size of our planet, and they usually have rocky terrain. Out of the 1,284 planets recently discovered by Kepler, only nine of them exist in the habitable zone of the star which they orbit. Meanwhile, around 550 of these planets are possibly rocky planets that are almost the same size as Earth.
The nine possibly habitable planets now comprise the 21 exoplanets in the habitable zone “hall of fame.”
“Kepler is the first telescope for detecting small rocky planets in the habitable zone of their stars,” said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA.
“Thanks to Kepler, we know exoplanets are common, most stars in our galaxy have planetary systems and they are potentially habitable planets. Knowing this is the first step to addressing whether are we alone in the universe.”