NASA's Kepler space telescope discovers over 200 new planet candidates
Washington, June 20: Around 219 new planet candidates were discovered outside our Solar System by US space agency NASA through its Kepler space telescope.
The Kepler spacecraft was launched in 2009. Its mission is to search the nearby region of our galaxy for exoplanets by detecting a transit, or the miniscule drop in a star's brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it.
"Of those, 10 are near-Earth size and orbiting in their star's habitable zone, which is the range of distance from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet to support life," Xinhua news cited a NASA statement on Monday.
With the latest release, Kepler has detected a total of 4,034 planet candidates, of which 2,335 have been verified as exoplanets.
Of roughly 50 near-Earth size habitable zone candidates detected by Kepler, more than 30 have been verified.
"This is the most comprehensive and detailed catalog release of candidate exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system, from Kepler's first four years of data," NASA said in a statement.
"It's also the final catalog from the spacecraft's view of the patch of sky in the Cygnus constellation," it said.
According to NASA, few planets were found between the two distinct size groupings of small planets. One is rocky Earth-like bodies and another gaseous planets smaller than Jupiter.