May 13, 2016

    Nasa reports discovery of 1,284 planets


    NASA has announced the discovery of 1,284 new planets outside the solar system, more than doubling the number of exoplanets found with the Kepler space telescope.

    "This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth," said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at Nasa headquarters in Washington on Tuesday.

    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.

    "Of the nearly 5,000 total planet candidates found to date, more than 3,200 now have been verified, and 2,325 of these were discovered by Kepler," Nasa said in a statement.

    Of the new trove of 1,284, nearly 550 could be rocky planets like Earth, based on their size, the United States space agency said.

    "Nine of these orbit in their sun's habitable zone, which is the distance from a star where orbiting planets can have surface temperatures that allow liquid water to pool."

    The addition of these nine means that 21 exoplanets now are known to be circling their stars in the so-called "habitable zone", and may harbour life.