Washington: A team lead of astronomers at the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center have used data from NASA`s Kepler space telescope to uncover 715 new exoplanets.
The newly-verified objects orbit 305 different stars, and therefore include multi-world systems that are reminiscent of the Sun`s own planetary family.
The announcement of these discoveries was followed by news that Kepler had also found the first Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of its star, Kepler 186f . This is a significant milestone in the task of determining the prevalence of terrestrial planets in the Milky Way galaxy.
Jason Rowe, a SETI Institute astronomer who co-led the study, said these results are showing us that not only are Earth-sized planets common, but so are multi-planet systems containing potentially habitable worlds, adding most of the new planets orbit their host star much closer than Mercury, but a few are beginning to bear a similarity to our own solar system.
The deluge of new planets has been intensified by a new analysis scheme called verification by multiplicity. This technique can be applied to many planets at once, allowing the researchers to verify hundreds of new planetary systems in wholesale fashion, rather than teasing them from the Kepler data one-by-one as done in the past.
The new technique uses probability arguments based on the recognition that, of the 150,000 stars observed by Kepler, hundreds were found that have multiple planet candidates. On this basis, the researchers are assured that their results are not distorted by binary stars that can mimic a multi-world system. The new discoveries increase the total number of known exoplanets to over 1,700.
On April 17th, the Kepler team announced the discovery of Kepler 186f, the first Earth-sized planet found in the habitable zone of its host star, marking a major milestone in determining the frequency of Earth-like planets in the Milky Way galaxy.