"Are we alone? Maybe Kepler today has told us indirectly, although we need confirmation, that we are probably not alone", Kepler scientist Mario Perez said in a Monday news conference.
Although the Kepler mission has yet to fulfill one of its goals, which is determining the fraction of sun-like stars hosting Earth-like planets in our galaxy, these data will help astronomers determine that number in the next few years, the researchers said. The telescope has studied some 150,000 stars in the Cygnus constellation, a survey which NASA said is now complete. The 1,284 newly discovered exoplanets were only announced as such after being identified with 99% confidence, but as NASA admits, that leaves out 1,327 other likely exoplanets that couldn't reach that 99% certainty. Of those, 10 are potentially rocky and located in the habitable zones of their stars where liquid water might be found.
"This carefully-measured catalog is the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy's most compelling questions - how many planets like our Earth are in the galaxy?" said Susan Thompson, a Kepler research scientist at SETI.
NASA has identified 10 planets orbiting in their star's habitable zone, meaning they could be capable of supporting alien life. But while Kepler looked at one portion of the sky for stars that were farther away for a longer time, TESS will observe the entire sky and focus on the brightest and closest stars.
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Sanders later condemned the shooting and said that he had been made aware that Hodgkinson had volunteered for his campaign. The FBI is also investigating the incident, saying they're not sure if the shooting was an assassination attempt.
With the addition of this latest release, Kepler has now identified 4,034 planet candidates, and 2,335 of them have been confirmed as exoplanets. If Kepler, the planet and its star don't line up, we can't see a transit.
"They say not to count our chickens before they're hatched, but that's exactly what these results allow us to do based on probabilities that each egg (candidate) will hatch into a chick (bona fide planet)". But those 10 were joined by an additional 209 more garden-variety planets that are unlikely to be hospitable to life because they are too gassy, too hot, too cold or otherwise unlike the only known planet to host life: Earth.
The findings were presented at a news conference Monday at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.
Kepler continues to search for planets in different regions of space.
The Kepler catalog reveals that the rocky planets are often about 75 percent larger than Earth, and about around half of these planets end up accumulating the common gases helium and hydrogen, which "swells" their size, transforming them into Neptune-like planets. He likened the discovery to realizing that mammals and reptiles are on separate branches of the evolutionary tree.