Published on : Feb 27, 2014
A new discovery by NASA scientists is proving that our solar system is more hospitable and crowded than we earlier perceived it to be. On Wednesday NASA confirmed that it had discovered 715 new planets located outside of our solar system.
The discovery was made using a special planet-hunting telescope called Kepler. This has now pushed the total number of planets discovered in the Milky Way to 1,700.
The scene was rather different around two decades ago when astronomers had not discovered any other planets revolving around stars apart from the ones known to revolve around the sun.
According to Jack Lissauer, a planetary scientist at NASA, this discovery has almost doubled the total number of planets that are now known to humanity.
This is the single largest announcement ever involving a batch of exoplanets (or planets outside our solar system). To achieve this, astronomers used a newly developed confirmation technique.
While the announcements primarily pertained to big numbers in our galaxy, it also had strong underpinnings of the possibility of life existing behind these numbers.
Almost all of the newly discovered planets are present in a solar system like ours- where a number of planets revolve around a single star. These 715 planets were discovered by observing just 305 stars. And, nearly all of these planets were of a size similar to size than of Jupiter- the largest planet of our solar system.
Interestingly, scientists have noted that at least four of these newly discovered exoplanets move around their respective stars in a ‘habitable zone’, which means that their atmosphere isn’t freezing or too hot, presenting chances of liquid water existing here.
These discoveries have been hailed as a definitive step towards reaching the ultimate goal of Kepler- ‘finding Earth 2.0’.