In comparison, our solar system looks like it has three planets in the habitable zone of the sun: Mars, Venus and Earth. The space administration's James Webb Space Telescope will launch in 2018, which will be able to "detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet's atmosphere".
Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Centre in California on Monday revealed the "most reliable" catalogue yet of potential planets in the galaxy, bringing the total to 4034.
There are now 4,034 planet candidates in the catalog.
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This artist rendering provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows some of the 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth size and in the habitable zone of their star identified by NASA's Kepler space telescope. Despite its limited view, it's found more than 500 candidates, more than 100 of which have been confirmed exoplanets.
The news comes during the Kepler Science Conference and NASA's Kepler exoplanet week, to celebrate the successes of these missions and the scientists who have made exoplanet discoveries possible.
"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. Scientists went back through all the data Kepler gathered during its first four years to make sure they didn't miss anything. "It's unbelievable the things that Kepler has found, it has shown us these terrestrial worlds, and we still have all this work to do to understand how common Earths are in the galaxy". Looks like a transit. "It's the closest to Earth in size and orbit", said Mullally, "but there is still a lot we don't know about this planet". The result is some of the nearest Earth-analogues found so far, including one known as KOI-7711. The result is that this final catalog should be the most accurate ever released by the Kepler team.
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Since the Kepler mission began in 2009, the telescope has helped researchers identify thousands of exoplanet candidates, and more than 2,000 of those have turned out to be confirmed exoplanets. Scientists can't just observe one transit and say it's a planet. If any of them dipped in brightness for a short period, it could be sign of a planet passing in front, blocking some of their light.
And that's just in the corner of the sky that Kepler stared at. Kepler is basically viewing tiny solar eclipses. NASA estimates for every planet we confirm there are another 100-200 out there. That group includes almost 50 near-Earth size planets in the habitable zone, with 30 verified. That's a question the next set of NASA telescopes will try to answer. Each WFIRST image would be like taking 100 Hubble images according to NASA. Space.com reports that the telescope stars at a single patch of sky looking for "alien planets".
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