NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope runs a continuous program checking around 150.000 stars around our Solar System for planets like Earth. This is around the 1% of the stars in the Milky Way but this small sample gives us around 4.000 stars very similar to our Sun in age, size, bright and, probably, in planets like our Earth. From those 4.000 candidates, Kepler has confirmed its 1000th planet and now, as celebration, NASA keeps out an Hall of fame for the eight planets more similar to Earth. All of them are in the habitable zone around its star and have a similar size to our planet.
With the detection of 554 more planet candidates from Kepler observations conducted May 2009 to April 2013, the Kepler team has raised the candidate count to 4,175. Eight of these new candidates are between one to two times the size of Earth, and orbit in their sun’s habitable zone. Of these eight, six orbit stars that are similar to our sun in size and temperature. All candidates require follow-up observations and analysis to verify they are actual planets.
Work is underway to translate these recent discoveries into estimates of how often rocky planets appear in the habitable zones of stars like our sun, a key step toward NASA’s goal of understanding our place in the universe.
Scientists also are working on the next catalog release of Kepler’s four-year data set. The analysis will include the final month of data collected by the mission and also will be conducted using sophisticated software that is more sensitive to the tiny telltale signatures of small Earth-size planets than software used in the past.