Our galactic neighborhood just got a lot bigger. NASA on Wednesday announced the discovery of 715 new planets, by far the biggest batch of planets ever unveiled at once.
By way of comparison, about 1,000 planets total had been identified in our galaxy before Wednesday.
Four of those planets are in what NASA calls the “habitable zone,” meaning they have the makeup to potentially support life.
One of those four is about twice the size of Earth and orbits a star half the size of Earth’s sun in a 30-day cycle.
The other three planets in habitable zones also are all roughly twice the size of Earth. Scientists said the multiplicity technique is biased toward first discovering planets close to their star and that, when further data comes in, they expect to find a higher percentage of new planets that could potentially have a life-supporting climate like Earth’s.
The planets, which orbit 305 different stars, were discovered by the Kepler space telescope and were verified using a new technique that scientists expect to make new planetary discoveries more frequent and more detailed.
“We’ve been able to open the bottleneck to access the mother lode and deliver to you more than 20 times as many planets as has ever been found and announced at once,” said Jack Lissauer, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.