Patrick Scheg '17
On February 26th, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had their biggest announcement to date, the discovery of 715 new planets. This jackpot of information is all thanks to data collected in the first two years of the Kepler telescope mission, with more to come. Kepler, named after the Renaissance astronomer Johannesburg Kepler, was launched on March 7, 2009, by NASA to discover habitable Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. This mission was initially intended to last for about three and a half years, but the plan was revised to last longer due to major discoveries. In 2012, however, one of the wheels controlling its movement broke, followed by another wheel breaking in 2013. Through its abilities are now more limited, the spacecraft continues to collect more data.
This data increased the number of confirmed Earth-sized planets by 400%, super-Earths by 600% and Neptune-sized planets by 200%. The number of Jupiter-sized planets, which made up most of Kepler's first discoveries, rose only by 2%, which proved to be quite a surprise to scientists. 95% of the planets are smaller than Neptune (four times the size of Earth) and the majority are about twice the size of Earth. All of these planets were verified by scientists using a technique called "verification by multiplicity," which focuses on stars likely to have more than one planet in orbit around them. Only four out of the 715 planets could possibly support life. Scientists hope that further data will provide more proof of habitable areas.
The Kepler satelite circles the earth!
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