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WSJ: Hundreds of new Planets Found – Four Suitable for Life?

WOW!  finally, new frontiers for us to explore…

NASA scientists announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets around distant stars, including four alien worlds roughly the size of Earth that might be the proper temperature for liquid water to form and, therefore, potentially suitable for life.

The discovery, based on two years of data collection on 150,000 or so stars by the agency’s orbiting Kepler space telescope, brings the confirmed count of planets outside our solar system to nearly 1,700.

“We have almost doubled the number of planets known to humanity,” said planetary scientist Jack Lissauer at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., who is a science co-investigator on the $600 million Kepler space telescope mission.

The team of three dozen astronomers, data analysts and planetary scientists detailed their findings in two research papers submitted to the Astrophysical Journal and discussed their findings Wednesday at a news conference held by NASA.

The data were collected before the Kepler telescope malfunctioned last year, leaving it unable to track stars precisely enough to continue the planet-hunting mission for which it was launched in 2009. The Kepler scientists are now seeking funding from NASA to operate the telescope for another two years in a reduced role, to study how planets form around stars.

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