1200 Planet candidates by size (credit: NASA/Wendy Stenzel)
NASA’s Kepler telescope continues to discover previously unknown planets throughout our galaxy. Despite having been hunting for only a year, the Kepler telescope
has discovered 1,235 possible planets outside our solar system. These latest numbers were announced by NASA on February 2nd. And while all of these discovered celestial bodies have yet to be confirmed as planets, Kepler chief scientist William Borucki estimates that 80 percent of them will eventually be verified.
Even more significant is the announcement that 54 of these newly discovered celestial bodies are likely within the habitable zone of their host stars—the zone that could be hospitable to life. According to Borucki, “Five of the planetary candidates are both near Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their parent stars.”
Follow up observations will take place to confirm the preliminary results from Kepler, but these will occur over a period of several years.