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NASA Finds 715 New Exoplanets Beneath The Universe’s Couch Cushions

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nasa exoplanetsMuch like an over-the-hill cinematic boxer, everyone had pretty much given up on the Kepler Telescope once its instruments started to malfunction a while back. Though steps are being taken to give it different duties, there is still a seemingly endless stream of data that Kepler has already provided scientists. Delving through this massive chunk of information astronomers keep finding new things. The latest discovery involves the identification and verification of 715 exoplanets, which is the largest batch of new planets ever found, and brings the total sum up to almost 1,700. I guess I should have started off with a better comparison than Rocky.

The research team responsible for this exciting find—led by Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist at NASA‘s Ames Research Center—was analyzing data from May 2009 to March 2011, Kepler’s first two years of operation. They honed their search to only include stars with more than one potential planet, at which point a statistical technique called “verification by multiplicity” was used to determine the probability of planets surrounding those stars. A few thousand of the 150,000 stars observed have confirmed planets orbiting them, and a study of the data revealed that planets are not just randomly or equally distributed, but that some stars are far more likely to have multiple planets than others. And then somebody sprinkled some magic dust on a pair of ancient dice and the number 715 floated in the air above the dice. Or maybe they did something more technical.

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Exoplanet Infographic Tracks All The Worlds Discovered By The Kepler Telescope

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KeplerIt’s well past the witching hour here as I write this, and I should really be going to bed. But I can’t. Because I’ve found something awesome. Sure, finding awesome things is pretty much the name of the game when it comes to this gig, but this is the sort of thing that demands I tell the world about it right now, as quickly as possible, so I can go back to fiddling around with it instead of sleeping.

From the time it was launched in 2009 until its untimely demise due to two failed retraction wheels this past summer, NASA’s Kepler space telescope was a badass exoplanet-discovering machine. You could read the reams of NASA data about those planets, but if you’re looking for a more easily digestible survey of Kepler’s accomplishments you can do no better than the gorgeous animated infographic put together by the New York Times. I’m sorry, I can’t help myself: My god, it’s full of stars…

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Smallest Exoplanet Yet Discovered With Kepler Telescope

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Until we get electronic eyes deep in space, humans are left to do our deepest explorations of the galaxy from here on Earth. Back in Galileo’s time, this might have been considered a hardship, but technological advancements come at such a rapid rate, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with everything astronomers are discovering.

Using NASA’s Kepler telescope, scientists discovered the lovingly titled Kepler-37b, the smallest exoplanet yet discovered, at a size slightly larger than that of our Moon. It orbits its star once every 13 days, at a distance one-third of that between the Sun and Mercury. Maybe a species of Sauna Monsters has evolved over the years, so let’s not rule out all life.

Exo