Our galaxy seems a whole lot bigger after NASA confirmed the Kepler telescope's recent remarkable discovery: the existence of 715 additional planets beyond our solar system. The discovery was verified by astronomers Wednesday, making the total tally of known planets about 1,700, Reuters reported.
"We almost doubled, just today, the number of planets known to humanity," NASA astronomer Douglas Hudgins, told reporters on a conference call.
This colossal boost in planet population is due in part to a new verification system. The new technique analyzes groups of planets rather than a single planet, based on the idea that most planets have sibling planets that orbit a common star, Reuters reported. This new statistical approach to determining planets is much more efficient and will be published in the next Astrophysical Journal, USA Today said.
Astronomers are especially interested in four of these new planets due to their positioning in relationship to the stars they orbit. Scientists say these four planets orbit their stars in the habitable zone, defined as a particular distance from a star that creates a temperature which can sustain water and a crucial component for life to exist, The Washington Post reported.
The discovery has also provided new understanding about the generalized structure of planets beyond our own solar system. The majority of new planets are actually quite small; a contrast to most of the previously verified planets which were reported to be closer to the size of Jupiter.
The discovery has also established a general solar system formation where planets circle one star in one set path, USA Today reported.
The discovery of planets has validated our own solar system’s structure, accentuating more similarities than differences.
"It's interesting to look at the Kepler data set and see all these scaled-down versions of our own solar system." Kepler scientist Jason Rowe of the SETI Institute said at the press conference.
It seems the Kepler telescope is on its way to achieving its
ultimate goal of "finding Earth 2.0," Hudgins, the NASA astronomer, said at the conference, according to the AP.