Space telescope finds evidence of planets around hundreds of stars
Surveying thousands of stars for telltale twinkles that signal the passage of an orbiting planet, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered a whopping 706 candidate planets beyond the solar system. If confirmed, that motherlode would boost the number of known extrasolar planets, now estimated at 460, to well over a thousand.
The trove, announced June 15, includes evidence of five stars that have full-fledged planetary systems. These exoplanet systems, if verified, would be the first known in which each planet creates a minieclipse as it transits, or passes in front, of its parent star. The amount of dimming and the duration of a transit offer information about planets, including their size, that cannot be gleaned by less direct methods of detection.
A team including Kepler lead scientist William Borucki of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., has posted the findings online (at l