The Milky Way just got a lot more crowded — with planets.
Nasa has announced 1,284 new planets orbiting stars outside our solar system, called exoplanets — on top of about 1,000 previously authenticated exoplanets detected by the Kepler Space Telescope since its launch in 2009.
It is the biggest planetary collection to be verified in a single swoop.
“One of the great questions of all time, and one of Nasa’s science objectives in our journey to the solar system and beyond, is whether we are alone in the universe,” said Paul Hertz, director of astrophysics for Nasa.
“The first step in answering this question is to detect and understand the population of planets around other stars.”
According to Nasa, more than 3,200 exoplanets have been confirmed, out of nearly 5,000 candidates discovered to date from all sources, including ground observatories.
Kepler has accounted for the vast majority.
This new batch of planets comes from a statistical analysis led by Princeton University researcher Timothy Morton, and there are sure to be more — possibly as many as 1,327 — from among the Kepler-detected candidates listed in the telescope catalogue as of last July.
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