Analysis was performed on the Kepler space telescope’s planet candidate catalog, which identified 4,302 potential planets. For 1,284 of the candidates, the probability of being a planet is greater than 99 percent – the minimum required to earn the status of “planet.” An additional 1,327 candidates are more likely than not to be actual planets, but they do not meet the 99 percent threshold and will require additional study. The remaining 707 are more likely to be some other astrophysical phenomena.
This analysis also validated 984 candidates previously verified by other techniques. Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters Paul Hertz noted that thanks to Kepler space telescope and the research community, we now know there could be more planets than stars This knowledge informs the future missions that are needed to take us ever-closer to finding out whether we are alone in the universe.
Among the newly confirmed planets, almost 550 could resemble rocky planets like Earth, according to their size. In addition, nine of these orbit in their sun’s habitable zone, meaning they have the perfect temperature for water to pool on the surface of the planet. With the addition of these nine, that makes a total of 21 exoplanets that have the same size and orbit as the Earth to the sun.