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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope Discovers Its 1,000th Exoplanet

7 Jan 2015, 3:59 pm

Kepler_spacecraft_artist_render_(crop)
(Credit: NASA JPL)

Originally launched in 2009, the Kepler Space Telescope was developed to find other Earth-like planets orbiting distant starts. And recently, five years into its mission, Kepler located its thousandth verified Earth-like Exoplanet.

As impressive as that is, according to NASA those 1,000 planets are only a fraction of what Kepler monitors. According to a press release from the space agency, Kepler continuously monitors 150,000 stars beyond our solar system and has identified more than 4,000 other planets for scientists to study.

“Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler mission’s treasure trove of data takes us another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “The Kepler team and its science community continue to produce impressive results with the data from this venerable explorer.”

The two most recently validated planets are known as Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b. Here’s what NASA says of the celestial duo, “Kepler-438b, 475 light-years away, is 12 percent bigger than Earth and orbits its star once every 35.2 days. Kepler-442b, 1,100 light-years away, is 33 percent bigger than Earth and orbits its star once every 112 days.”

They’re both just under 1.5 times the diameter of the Earth. They both orbit stars that are smaller and cooler than out sun, so they can be closer to the star and still remain potentially habitable to life.

If it’s track record is any indication, expect more fascinating discoveries out of the space telescope in the months to come.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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