NASA's Kepler mission has made an exciting discovery and subsequent announcement: the discovery of 715 new planets orbiting 305 stars. Says the space agency, about 95-percent of the newly discovered planets are smaller than Neptune, making them more or less around the size of Earth, and makes for a "significant increase" in known small planets.
The mass discovery is in part due to a relatively new verification method involving a so-called "statistical technique" for space systems with more than a single planet near its star. The team that made the discovery was led in part by Jack Lissauer, a planetary scientist, all of whom analyzed stars that were first detected back between May 2009 and March 2011.
The discovery of these systems could then lead to the studying of planets individually, as well as their "planetary neighborhoods" -- at the end of it all could be details about how the planets formed. Of the new discoveries, four of the planets are in the range necessary for liquid water to be a possibility.
Said Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, John Grunsfeld, "The Kepler team continues to amaze and excite us with their planet hunting results. That these new planets and solar systems look somewhat like our own, portends a great future when we have the James Webb Space Telescope in space to characterize the new worlds."