18 Earth-size planets found in our galaxy—all hiding in plain sight
And a hundred more small worlds may be awaiting discovery, astronomers predict, thanks to a new method for combing through NASA data.
Since its launch a decade ago, NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has found thousands of worlds, revealing that across the galaxy, planets are more numerous than stars.
But even though Kepler is done collecting data, scientists are still finding treasures in its vaults, including 18 new, relatively small worlds. Many of these previously overlooked planets are similar to Earth in size, and one of them even lives in an orbit that could be life-friendly.
“I’m excited, but not surprised,” says Caltech’s Jessie Christiansen of the results, reported in two Astronomy and Astrophysics publications. “It was inevitable that improved searches of the data would uncover previously undetected small planets.”
From 2009 to 2013, Kepler stared at a single patch of