NASA Discovers Whopping Number of 715 New Planets Outside Solar System, Four Described as ‘Habitable’

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | February 28, 2014 12:42 PM EST

NASA and its Kepler space telescope has discovered a whopping number of 715 new planets outside our own solar system.

Orbiting around 305 different stars, the planets were described as having the sizes of between Earth and Neptune, and were in close orbit to their parent stars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech
Artist's concept of NASA's Kepler space telescope. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

But only four out of the 715 planets were found to be "habitable" or sustainable. They range from 2 to 2.5 times the size of Earth.

The US space agency said most of the new discoveries were in "multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system."

One of the habitable zone planets, called Kepler-296f, orbits a star that is five per cent as bright as and half the size of our sun. It could either simply be a gas planet, or a water world covered entirely by oceans, scientists said.

The new list of planets were culled based on the Kepler space telescope's first two years into the mission. NASA analyzed data collected from May 2009 to March 2011 of stars that appear to be circled by multiple exoplanet candidates and identified patterns for several planets orbiting a single star.

"This is the largest windfall of planets, not candidates that has ever been announced at one time," Douglas Hudgins, exoplanet exploration scientist for NASA's astrophysics division, said.

"These results establish that planetary systems like our own solar system are in fact common."

Jason Rowe, research scientist at SETI Institute and co-leader of the research, said they learned that planets in these multi-systems were small and their orbits were flat and circular, "resembling pancakes, not your classical view of an atom."

"The more we explore the more we find familiar traces of ourselves amongst the stars that remind us of home."

Launched in 2009, Kepler has identified more than 3,600 planet candidates. The latest batch of discoveries brings the total number of known exoplanets to 1,700.

Video Source: YouTube/The Cosmos News

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(Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech / )
Artist's concept of NASA's Kepler space telescope. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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