Yes, you read that right! Nearly 1300 new planets!
Well, 1,284 to be precise.
NASA recently announced that its Kepler telescope discovered the new planetary additions, nine of which are theorized to be habitable. About 550 of those planets are thought to be rocky, like Earth, with the nine sitting just within the "habitable zone," as they each have a surface temperature that allows liquid water to form.
This new discovery places the number of planets outside of our solar system at 3,264 and doubles the number of exoplanets discovered by the Kepler telescope. The last known sighting of an "outer" planet was back in 1989.
"This [discovery] gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth," Ellen Stofan, NASA's chief scientist at their Washington HQ, said.
Between 2009 and 2013, the Kepler telescope has spotted around 4,302 planet "candidates." Of that number, only 1,284 had a 99% or greater probability of being a planet. With the new discoveries, the amount of planets that can potentially support new life has risen to 21.
The Kepler telescope spots possible planets by watching the stars. When a stars dims, it means a planet or planet-like mass has passed in front of that star.
So what about the other planets? You know, the ones that have yet to reach that "planetary status"?
Of that 4k number, 1,327 of the celestial bodies are "more likely than not" are not planets. 707 of that number are thought to be "other astrophysical phenomena."
"Before the Kepler space telescope launched, we did not know whether exoplanets were rare or common in the galaxy," Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division director, said. "Thanks to Kepler and the research community, we now know there could be more planets than stars. This knowledge informs the future missions that are needed to take us ever-closer to finding out whether we are alone in the universe."
So, what I'm hearing is that Neo Queen Serenity and her court could quite possibly exist.
I'll just hold onto that hope.