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Kepler telescope doubles its count of known exoplanets

Latest data confirm nine more worlds in ‘habitable’ zone

By
3:07pm, May 10, 2016
graph of kepler exoplanets

PLENTY OF PLANETS  The Kepler space telescope has added 1,284 planets to the roughly 1,300 planets already discovered by tracking worlds passing in front of a star.

The galaxy is starting to feel a little crowded. Over 1,000 planets have just been added to the roster of worlds known to orbit other stars in the Milky Way, researchers announced May 10 at a news briefing. This is the largest number of exoplanets announced at once.

Most of the 1,284 worlds are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. Many of those are probably big balls of gas. But over 100 of the new discoveries are smaller than 1.2 times the diameter of Earth. “Those are almost certainly rocky in nature,” said Timothy Morton, an astrophysicist at Princeton University. Nine planets also lie within the habitable zone, the distance from the star where liquid water could conceivably collect on the surface of the planet. Morton and colleagues detail their findings in the May 10 Astrophysical Journal.

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