715 exoplanets discovered by Kepler telescope

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

On Wednesday, NASA announced the confirmed discovery of 715 new exoplanets orbiting just over three hundred stars; this confirmed using data from the orbiting Kepler telescope. Scientists made the discoveries by analyzing data from the first two years of the Kepler Telescope's operation, from May 2009 to March 2011.

These findings have nearly doubled the total number of known exoplanets. It is also the largest number of exoplanets ever confirmed at once, exceeding any previous discovery by a factor of 20. In addition to vastly increasing the number of known exoplanets, it has now been established that solar systems with multiple planets are common, and approximately Earth-sized exoplanets are relatively common.

Nearly all the newly discovered planets are smaller than Neptune; with several only 2.5 times the diameter of Earth, and located within their star's habitable zone. Significant planets found include Kepler-296f, which is twice the size of earth and may have liquid water on the surface, although it is also possible it could be more similar to Neptune. Most of the planets, however, are too close to their star and thus too hot to be in the habitable zone.

The number of exoplanets confirmed via the Kepler telescope has increased nearly fourfold with this discovery.

The findings are to be published in the The Astrophysical Journal on March 10. It is expected many more planets will be confirmed as scientists continue to examine the Kepler mission's data.