NASA has announced the discovery of 1,284 new planets outside our solar system, more than doubling the number of exoplanets found with the Kepler space telescope. The unmanned Kepler space observatory, which launched in 2009, has been scanning 150,000 stars for signs of orbiting bodies, particularly those that might be able to support life. It works by observing a dimming in the light of a star, known as a transit, each time an orbiting planet passes in front of it. The latest trove of planets was confirmed by a new statistical method, instead of the time-consuming, one-by-one process previously used.
Did You Know?
- Kepler is a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-size planets orbiting other stars.
- The spacecraft, named after the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, was launched on March 7, 2009, into an Earth-trailing heliocentric orbit.
- Designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way to discover Earth-size exoplanets in or near habitable zones and estimate how many of the billions of stars in the Milky Way have such planets, Kepler‘s sole science instrument is a photometer that continually monitors the brightness of over 145,000 main sequence stars in a fixed field of view.
- This data is transmitted to Earth, then analyzed to detect periodic dimming caused by exoplanets that cross in front of their host star.