Kepler Telescope Has Discovered 1,000+ Planets. Good Lord.

You can’t seem to go a week or two these days without some ridiculous news coming out regarding the Kepler telescope. The son of a bitch has been in orbit for something like two years, and the intrepid son of a bitch just keeps finding planets. It’s a planet finding motherfucker. Today it was dropped that Kepler has found in excess of 1,200 possible planets.


In fifteen years, astronomers have detected just over 500 planets orbiting other stars. Now, after less than two years in orbit, the Kepler telescope has more than tripled that figure, discovering more than 1,200 possible new worlds. Even better, at least 54 of them are in their star’s habitable zone, and five of these are Earth-sized planets. But here’s the best part – Kepler only looked at one tiny corner of our galaxy. We really might be surrounded by millions of Earth-like planets after all.

Turns out yesterday’s story about a tightly packed solar system was just a tease for the really big news. After just 23 months in orbit, NASA’s Kepler telescope has discover 1,235 potential planets orbiting around the 156,000 stars it’s been charged with observing. It should be stressed that these are still just possible planets, but in all likelihood the vast majority of these observations will stand up, so we’re still probably looking at at least a thousand new exoplanets.

So what sorts of planets has Kepler found? There appear to be 68 Earth-sized planets, 288 rocky planets that are considerably bigger and known as Super-Earths, 662 relatively small gas giants around the size of Neptune, 165 Jupiter-sized planets, and 19 that are even bigger than Jupiter. The discovery of nearly 70 Earth-like planets is particularly exciting, considering we had only detected a handful of them before this.

In the article, there’s the usual caution that must be insisted upon. This is all cloudy wunder-science. Typical sciencey-astro-physicist-astronomy…stuff.

For more dissection of this awesomeness, as well as some caution and measure of intelligence, hit up the article  Motherlode of potential planets found: more than 1200 alien worlds! by Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy.