We’ve been to the Moon, and it looks like one day we’ll go to Mars. So what’s next? According to the latest report from the Kepler spacecraft, there are a lot more choices out there than we thought!
The Kepler spacecraft was launched by NASA in 2009 to search for Earth-sized planets. It has been flying through the Milky Way ever since, checking the brightness of the stars it sees. If an object passes in front of a star over and over again, there is a good chance it is a planet going around the star. (Just like the Earth going around the Sun.) For a long time, every spot of light had to be analyzed (studied) one at a time. But recently, NASA found out a way to check lots of possible planets at once, making it much faster.
Now, they have found the most planets ever found at one time! The team at NASA says they have discovered 1284 new planets. Of these new planets, 550 are rocky like the Earth, and nine of them are just the right distance from their star to have liquid water. This means we might be able to live on them—if we can ever get to them! Counting the newly discovered planets, we now know of 21 planets that we might be able to live on.
“Before the Kepler space telescope launched, we did not know whether exoplanets were rare or common in the galaxy. Thanks to Kepler and the research community, we now know there could be more planets than stars,” Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA, said. “This knowledge informs the future missions that are needed to take us ever-closer to finding out whether we are alone in the universe.”
In 2018, NASA hopes to look even deeper into space with their Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which will watch 200,000 stars for signs of Earth-like planets.
To see a video about the TESS, click here!