National Geographic News
The artist concept depicts multiple-transiting planet systems, which are stars with more than one planet. The planets eclipse or transit their host star from the vantage point of the observer. This angle is called edge-on.

This illustration depicts stars with more than one planet. The planets eclipse or transit their host star from the vantage point of the observer, an angle called edge-on.

ILLUSTRATION NASA

Dan Vergano

National Geographic

Published February 26, 2014

NASA astronomers nearly doubled the number of alien worlds known to humanity on Wednesday, reporting the discovery of 715 planets located in nearby solar systems.

The discoveries bring the total number of known planets outside our solar system—so-called exoplanets—to roughly 1,700.

Launched in 2009, NASA's $591 million Kepler Space Telescope has now discovered most of the planets orbiting nearby stars.

"We've hit the motherlode; we've got a veritable exoplanet bonanza," says Kepler co-leader Jack Lissauer of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

The newly announced exoplanets reinforce the view that most solar systems around sunlike stars have smaller-size planets.

Most of those planets range in width from Earth-size (on the smaller side) to Neptune-size (on the larger). That's quite a change from the Jupiter-size planets that were often spotted orbiting nearby stars during the early planet searches that started in 1995.

"Nature likes to make small planets," says the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sara Seager, who was not part of the discovery team but commented on the findings at a Wednesday NASA briefing.

Four of the newly discovered planets orbit around their stars in "habitable zones"—regions where temperatures are just right for oceans, which bring with them the possibility of life.

But the four planets are all a little more than twice the width of Earth, which may make their atmospheres unfriendly to life as we know it. (See: "Earth-Size Planets Come in Two Flavors.")

Worlds Upon Worlds

The newly discovered 715 planets orbit in solar systems around 305 stars, mostly ones the size of the sun or smaller.

Many of the planets orbit in what is beginning to be seen as a more typical solar system, in which the largest planet is Neptune-size and a bevy of smaller Earth-size planets orbit close-in to their star and close to one another.

"These new Kepler results are very helpful in filling out the statistics of solar systems," says Princeton's Adam Burrows, who was not part of the discovery team. "The goal is to see how typical is our own solar system, and ones unlike it."

Multiplicity Simplicity

Kepler detects planets orbiting nearby stars by recording the telltale dips in light they cause as they eclipse their stars. These "transits" can be spotted only for planets traveling in orbits that are viewable edge-on to Earth, which happens roughly 10 percent of the time.

Of the roughly 1,000 planets known to be orbiting nearby stars prior to the Kepler team's Wednesday announcement, fewer than 100 multiple-planet solar systems had been found by the space telescope's investigations since 2009.

The floodgates of planetary findings opened when Kepler scientists realized that they could more confidently detect planets orbiting stars that showed evidence of having multiple planets.

With a "validation through multiplicity" technique, described in a forthcoming Astrophysical Journal paper, scientists could use the gravitational interactions of planets in multiple-world solar systems to rule out false observations of worlds.

The team realized it was seeing more multiple-planet solar systems than random chance would allow, Lissauer said, giving them statistical confidence in the technique.

Kepler Continues

The Kepler mission suffered a setback last year when a steering gyroscope aboard the spacecraft failed. The failure ended the spacecraft's main mission, but a reduced effort is still under way.

All told, Kepler has discovered about 3,500 "candidate" planets orbiting stars within about 3,000 light-years of Earth.

One of the light-detector modules aboard the spacecraft also failed in the last month, NASA announced late Tuesday. That leaves 19 detectors still functional, and the mishap will not stop the mission, according to the space agency.

At NASA, a new Kepler 2 mission has emerged that promises about 100 new planet discoveries every year, said the Kepler team's Jason Rowe of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

Says MIT's Seager: "Kepler is the gift that keeps on giving."

Astronomers suspect that our Milky Way galaxy is home to perhaps 17 billion rocky worlds similar to Earth, along with hundreds of billions of larger ones.

Follow Dan Vergano on Twitter.

37 comments
Richard Bradshaw Watson II
Richard Bradshaw Watson II

The Planet Nestor is our 'next-door neighbors' - a 'true Earth-like planet' - where humanoids have a nest or colony. It may be in the Alpha Centauri System? It has yet to be confirmed publically by NASA, ESA, or land-based telescopes.

Nestor was created by and runs on the algorithm of FOD=6_4, whereas F is the 6th letter, a circle, D is 4. The Plan-it Nestor has 6 continents & 4 seasons, ('6 Seas') & 4 oceans, ~64% of its surface is covered by water. Nestlings' brains, hearts, muscles, newborns, 'chicken' eggs and living trees are 64% water.

From Nestor's surface, the naked eye can see 6 moving objects: Sun, large Moon, and 4 planets. Their Moon has 4 phases of 6 days (~6.4 days): 25.5 day lunar months. Lunar year of 306 days + 6 day week +4 days =316 day solar year. They recognize superstrings theory of 6 higher dimensions + the common 4 and unified strings (u21 s19) theory with its 6 aspects of 'regular time' and 4 aspects of 'hypertime'.

Besides Nestor, their solar system contains 6 planets and 4 are non-rocky gas or ice giants. There are two inner planets at .6 & .4 AU and/or 6 & 4 AU.

"As above, so below." - ancient precept of sacred geometry/gematria

Nestlings' primary language is 'Eqfish'(6 letters,64=E5+Q17+F6+I9+S19+H8), they practice 'Simfle(6,64) Eqfish(6,64) Famatmia(8,64)' like we practice Simple(6,74) English(7,74) Gematria(8,74). These ETs like playing chess and checkers (64-square board) and their favorite beer is Miller 64. 

See my tweaked NASA conference presentation of 4/21/09 at http://PlanetNestor.blogspot.com .

Anna Kolganova
Anna Kolganova

This is where we should look for the space to "conquer"...not on our own planet...

matt k
matt k

I just hope they find some kind of extra terrestrial living organism that they bring forward before I die.........you have 70 years scientists challenge accepted

Daniel Rolan
Daniel Rolan

@Joyanne Jeffery@Daniel Rolan @Jen Na


Yes, I too was blessed to find The Allies of Humanity Briefings, which gave me a true picture of the "greater community of life in the universe" and humanity's place within it.


Please read these briefings if you value humanity's destiny in space, and your own unique contribution to be made in the world. It is time for this to emerge now.

Joyanne Jeffery
Joyanne Jeffery

Humanity must set the terms of engagement in dealing with other Races from the Universe. Humanity is totally unprepared! Sign the Declaration of Human Sovereignty and protect not only our Race, our World, but our Solar System. They can not use force unless we degrade the planet to a point where they can force us to be subjected to them. 


There is a Way to have them gone but you would have to explore and investigate the New Message 


. http://humansovereignty.org. Wake up they are here and pretending they aren't here and not knowing about their hidden intentions for our Human Family, should motivate you to get more informed. Read the free Book Life in the Universe.


All this information will give you a greater perspective of the bigger picture of what is truly happening in our world at this time in our evolution.

john madden
john madden

I think that there could be life on other planets but we don't have good enough technology to send someone that far out of our solar system and survive the trip there and back we still have 1,000 of years ahead of us to accomplish this but maybe one day our kind will make it out there and migrate to a new planet and universe. many people also question what aliens look like and assume that they look like the common stereo type like aliens v.s predators when aliens could look just like us    

pamela letstalkaboutcorsica
pamela letstalkaboutcorsica

never really believed we were alone, constant discoveries tend to confirm this too, interesting read, pretty mind-boggling

Hubert Abel
Hubert Abel

So.. this is where all the UFO's are coming from....

Our earth is around 5 billion years old. Some of these planets could be 7 to 10 billion years old.Their technology could be 100 plus years ahead of our planets.

Eli Carter
Eli Carter

What if theres no life anywhere else? What if we keep searching and searching and we never find any other living organism? 

Casey RIchard
Casey RIchard

Wow. 
At first thought is all I could come up and now after a few moments of reflection I'm asking Why now? Aliens? Perhaps we are the Aliens.

Eli Carter
Eli Carter

And to think, generations from now we will have gone to those planets too!

Daniel Rolan
Daniel Rolan

Alien worlds? or aliens in OUR world? Examine the UFO phenomenon seriously and you will know that visitation is underway. But why? Who are they and what do they want? I have found the clearest picture of the ET presence in the world to be The Allies of Humanity Briefings, which present an expose of the ET agenda, who they are and what they want. Read these briefings if you feel something big is happening in our world and feel you need to know what that is. http://www.alliesofhumanity.org

Four Season News  .
Four Season News .

I look in awe  at the universe, we are so blessed to be able to photograph its' magnificence, and discover there is more to learn. It is a long journey of discovery. It is any ones'  guess what is at the end or even if there is an end....

Suresh Parameswaran
Suresh Parameswaran

A dreamer in his hours of dream make cities, different people (most of them are never known to him), objects, situations, events and even most of the time he himself take a another person's body, and when he wakes up another world!!!! where has the world in his dream gone? Those who can find the reason for that, will get the answer for these  billions of galaxies.

Carmel Metcalf
Carmel Metcalf

I look in awe  at the universe, we are so blessed to be able to photograph its' magnificence, and discover there is more to learn. It is a long journey of discovery. It is any ones'  guess what is at the end or even if there is an end.

Daryl Ballard
Daryl Ballard

I often wonder about what is the end of all those billions of galaxies and where it is expanding.. And at the end of all of this, what is there? How did it begin, what prompted it to begin? Stunning and unimaginable if you really think about it. I cannot wrap my mind around it.
What was there before the universe began (big bang if that really happened as theorized)?  does it go on forever or is there an end point. What defines the end point. Whats past the end point?  too much too comprehend. WOW..

Didier Newman
Didier Newman

Then, probably, is there fossils or life expressions elsewhere? But, isn't the emergence and maintenance of life a process of radical contingency? That is, is a unique and unrepeatable past totally necessary? Or does life emerge through space like mushrooms when some conditions are present? So, how many conditions are necessary: three, four, trillions, infinite? Only one, water or any sort of God? Is God the word that means infinite conditions, absolute necessity? Anyway, how did the life that emerge in a given conditions resist when switching to a different  moment? How does life resist time itself, the effects of entropy? But, is it possible for human beings to recognise a simpler life than their own brain only? On the other hand, beyond likeness, is it possible to recognise a complex life than their brain, is this the extra-terrestrial life that some people are searching unsuccessfully? However, is there an origin of life or would it be as finding a cut in the material history of the universe, an infinite void that human language patches now? Along these lines, there is a peculiar book, a short preview in http://goo.gl/rfVqw6 Just another suggestion, far away from dogmas or axioms.

K C
K C

This guy is pretty funny.

john madden
john madden

@pamela letstalkaboutcorsica we are alone in a way we still haven't proven life on other planets but one day we will find out which will be a very great day for our planet but we think there might be another earth light years away waiting to be discovered

Joyanne Jeffery
Joyanne Jeffery

@Hubert Abel  The Visiting Races to our world are 30 and 40 thousand years old, Humanity is 7000. We know nothing of LIfe in the Universe and what these other Races are. Are they Resource Collectors,?, are they friendly, do they want our beautiful planet because they are a technology advance race who have stripped their planets and have come here to seduce humanity out of ours and put us in Slavery?, Humanity is totally unprepared for contact. 

john madden
john madden

@Hubert Abel well we don't know if UFO'S are for sure from aliens or just unidentified aircrafts studies say that they are from space and other planets but many say they are just aircrafts being tested that area 51 holds for testing and many think they are testing alien space craft but that is ones opinion but there could be life out there 10000000 years ahead of us capable of space travel of the speed of light

Joyanne Jeffery
Joyanne Jeffery

@Daniel Rolan  These are so informative, I am so grateful to have a greater perspective of what is truly happening in our world. 

Jen Na
Jen Na

@Daniel Rolan I have read these books, and even book one gave me a completely new perspective to investigate/comprehend.  Highly recommend them to anyone as this affects all of humanity. 

Daniel Rolan
Daniel Rolan

@Joyanne Jeffery @Daniel Rolan  @Jen Na


Yes, I too was blessed to find The Allies of Humanity Briefings, which gave me a true picture of the "greater community of life in the universe" and humanity's place within it.


Please read these briefings if you value humanity's destiny in space, and your own unique contribution to be made in the world at this time.

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