Discovery of Earth-like planets take Kepler’s tally to over 1,000 verified exoplanets

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NASA’s planet-hunter Kepler Space Telescope has been quite busy since it was launched and its latest set of discovery brings it to a new milestone – discovery of 1,000th exoplanet.

Kepler is busy monitoring over 150,000 stars beyond our solar system and till date has managed to handpick an assortment of more than 4,000 candidate planets for further study with 1,000th exoplanet verified recently.

Using Kepler data, scientists reached this millenary milestone after validating that eight more candidates spotted by the planet-hunting telescope are, in fact, planets. Current tally of confirmed planets stands at 1004 with the team having added another 554 candidates to the roll of potential planets, six of which are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of stars similar to our Sun.

Three of the newly-validated planets are located in their distant suns’ habitable zone also known as the ‘Goldilocks zone’ – the range of distances from the host star where liquid water might exist on the surface of an orbiting planet. Of the three, two are likely made of rock, like Earth.

Both Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b orbit stars smaller and cooler than our Sun, making the habitable zone closer to their parent star, in the direction of the constellation Lyra.

With the detection of 554 more planet candidates from Kepler observations conducted May 2009 to April 2013, the Kepler team has raised the candidate count to 4,175. You can check out the discovery table here.

Eight of these new candidates are between one to two times the size of Earth, and orbit in their sun’s habitable zone. Of these eight, six orbit stars that are similar to our Sun in size and temperature.