NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered its 1,000th alien planet, further cementing the prolific exoplanet-hunting mission’s status as a space-science legend.
Kepler reached the milestone today (Jan. 6) with the announcement of eight newly confirmed exoplanets, bringing the mission’s current alien world tally to 1,004. Kepler has found more than half of all known exoplanets to date, and the numbers will keep rolling in: The telescope has also spotted 3,200 additional planet candidates, and about 90 percent of them should end up being confirmed, mission scientists say.
Furthermore, a number of these future finds are likely to be small, rocky worlds with temperate, relatively hospitable surface conditions — in other worlds, planets a lot like Earth. (In fact, at least two of the newly confirmed eight Kepler planets — which were announced in Seattle today during the annual winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society — appear to meet that description, mission team members said.)