NASA announced today that the Kepler mission has discovered an astounding number of new potential planets -- over 1000 worlds, 54 of them in solar system regions where liquid water might exist.
"Thank you indeed, Kepler team!" said Bill Nye, Executive Director of the Planetary Society. "A thousand new planets, over 50 in the habitable zone, and this is just the beginning? Astonishing! Knowing that there are other worlds that could support life changes how we view our own."
An orbiting telescope, Kepler mines star systems for planets by measuring the brightness of stars and looking for telltale dips that indicate a planet is probably passing in front of its solar system's sun.
"The Kepler discoveries are game changers in our understanding of planetary formation and the nature of our stellar neighborhood," said Bruce Betts, Planetary Society Director of Projects. "Next will come the critical detailed ground-based and space-based follow-up observations that will turn candidates into confirmed planets, as well as the continued Kepler observations that will find planets with longer periods more like our solar system."