NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) last week announced the discovery of 715 new planets, by far the biggest batch of planets ever disclosed.  In comparison, a total of about 1,000 planets had been identified in our galaxy prior to this discovery.

Launched in March 2009 by NASA at a cost of $600 million, the Kepler Space Observatory’s mission was to find planets similar to Earth that are in or near the “Habitable Zones”, defined as planets that are the right distance from a star for a moderate temperature that might sustain liquid water and eventually life.

Habitable Zone

The vast majority, 95%, are smaller than our Neptune, which is four times the radius of the Earth.  One of them is about twice the size of Earth and orbits a star half the size of Earth’s sun in a 30-day cycle.  Four of the new planets are less than 2.5 times the radius of Earth, and they orbit their host suns in the Habitable Zones.

These new planets were verified using data from the first two years of Kepler’s voyage.  The new technique is called “Verification by Multiplicity,” relying in part on the logic of probability.

Hopefully, these discoveries will lead us to find an Earth like star one day!

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