News / Science & Technology

US Space Telescope Spots 715 More Planets

FILE - Part of the Milky Way galaxy as seen from Australia. (AP)
FILE - Part of the Milky Way galaxy as seen from Australia. (AP)
Scientists added a record 715 additional planets to the list of known worlds beyond the solar system, boosting the overall tally to nearly 1,700, astronomers said on Wednesday.

The additions include four planets about 2.5 times as big as Earth that are the right distance from their parent stars for liquid surface water, which is believed to be key for life.

The discoveries were made with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope before it was sidelined by a pointing system problem last year. The telescope, launched in 2009, spent four productive years staring at 160,000 target stars for signs of planets passing by, relative to the telescope's line of sight.

The tally of planets announced at a NASA press conference on Wednesday boosted Kepler's confirmed planet count from 246 to 961.

Combined with other telescopes' results, the headcount of planets beyond the solar system, or exoplanets, now numbers nearly 1,700.

“We almost doubled, just today, the number of planets known to humanity,” astronomer Douglas Hudgins, head of exoplanet exploration at NASA Headquarters in Washington, told reporters on a conference call.

The population boom is due to a new verification technique that analyzes potential planets in batches rather than one at a time. The method was developed after scientists realized that most planets, like those in the solar system, have sibling worlds orbiting a common parent star.

The newly found planets reinforce evidence that small planets, two to three times the size of Earth, are common throughout the galaxy.

“Literally, wherever [Kepler] can see them, it finds them,” said astronomer Sara Seager, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “That's why we have confidence that there will be planets like Earth in other places.”

Like the solar system, which has eight planets plus Pluto and other so-called “dwarf planets,” the newly found exoplanets belong in families.

But unlike the solar system's planets, which span from inner Mercury to outer Neptune some 150 times farther from the sun than Earth, the Kepler clans are bunched in close.

Most of the planets fly nearer to their parent stars than Venus orbits the sun, a distance of about 67 million miles [108 million kilometers].

NASA and other space agencies are designing follow-on telescopes to home in on planets in so-called “habitable zones” around their parent stars where temperatures would be suitable for liquid surface water.

Two papers on the new Kepler research will appear in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

UNICEF: Hidden Epidemic of HIV Among Adolescents

Researchers warn that Asia Pacific nations facing sharp rise in incidence of HIV among adolescents

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Perry Neheum from: Woodbridge, VA
March 03, 2014 2:06 PM
Man, you just know all the earth's Bible and Jesus freaks are freakin' out!

Whoa! I mean, how many of these (and millions and millions of other) planets have their own god(s) and sons of gods?

Roman Catholics especially aren't gonna like this. They're probably prayin' that their "God" destroy his (her?) rivals!

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
February 28, 2014 9:56 AM
Always in search of source of life. Now do we go to outer space to look at exoplanets? Tell me something; if it takes light millions of years traveling at ultra high frequency velocity to reach the earth, how long will it take our known transport jets - the type used for space travels by NASA et al - to reach these planets? Then if you see that nothing on earth can ever travel to these planets in a foreseeable future, do you wonder what they exist for? The bottom line is that man on earth is either becoming useless to himself in these matters trying to antagonize God, or it is the malfunctioning of their telescopes that creates those images and mirages now interpreted to be exoplanets.

But there is only one who can make it possible to travel to those planets and beyond, and also return to earth just in one day. In the morning he told the woman, "don't touch, I have not yet gone to my father", and in the evening he was saying to his friends, "touch me, put your hand here; doubt no more... you believe because you can see me, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe". And his friend said, "my Lord and my God".

by: k from: q
February 26, 2014 11:09 PM
With power and skill did We construct the Firmament: for vastness of Space.
And We have spread out the (spacious) earth: how excellently We do spread out!.

by: mark westberg from: Minneapolis
February 26, 2014 11:04 PM
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

by: Joanne from: Austin Tx.
February 26, 2014 10:15 PM
We are not alone

by: olgalaporte from: battleground, wa.
February 26, 2014 10:08 PM

by: jonathan from: ny
February 26, 2014 10:05 PM
Interesting to hear about and read articles like this

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs