NASA finds 461 new planets: Another Earth a strong possibility

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NASA finds 461 new planets: Another Earth a strong possibility
This artist rendering released Monday Jan. 7,2013 by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows the different types of planets in our Milky Way galaxy detected by NASA?s Kepler spacecraft. A new analysis of Kepler data found there are at least 17 billion planets the size of Earth. (AP Photo/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

NASA has reported that it has found 461 new planets, and the possibility of another Earth among them has become stronger. The Kepler Space Telescope is responsible for the new discovery. NASA believes that at least some of the planets may have water and could sustain life, but more research will be needed.

“The Kepler Space Telescope has found more than 2,000 planets since it started its mission. The recent addition of 461 new planets simply adds to the growing list. It is an impressive number considering that Kepler has only been gathering this data for 22 months. However, NASA has been falling behind in confirming the planets. Only 105 of the 2,740 planets have been confirmed, so there is still a lot of work left as data continues to be analyzed.

“NASA believes that four of the 461 new planets may be candidates for being another Earth. These planets are bigger, but they may have water and could have life. At least one of the planets on the list has a star that is similar to our sun. Christopher Burke, who works for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI), believes that there is strong evidence for another Earth to exist in our universe.

“The Kepler Space Telescope mission has cost NASA $600 million, but researchers believe it is providing valuable information that will help with future space exploration. Previous studies have estimated that the Milky Way has at least 17 billion planets that could be potentially similar to Earth. Kepler’s mission began in 2009 and has already found some intriguing options.

“Researchers believe that we may be centuries away from actually being able to visit any of the planets found by Kepler. However, as technology advances, the possibility of visiting another Earth becomes stronger. At this point, most of the data collected by NASA will actually be used to understand more about planetary structures and orbits instead of mapping future space exploration flights.

“Kepler’s mission will continue, and NASA expects the telescope to find smaller planets in the future. The Kepler Space Telescope’s goal has been to find planets similar to Earth, so it is considered a success. Since its launch into space more than three years ago, the telescope has delivered an enormous amount of information back to scientists. Kepler’s mission is expected to continue for at least three more years as it continues to travel in space.


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