The Kepler mission dumped another 3 months worth of data into the public yesterday, which brings their candidate planet list up to 1200 right now. It’s clear by the rate of finding candidates vs. confirmations, that most of the confirmations of real planets here are going to come from other teams. What’s most important is the density of these signals. This represents 1/400th of the sky, and is proving out that planets are everywhere, and are vastly more varied than we ever imagined.
Kepler uses planetary transits to see there is something there, so it can only detect solar systems whose disc is pointed right at us.
This means that they are only able to find a small fraction of the the possible systems out there, which makes the number of candidates even more impressive.
As you keep slicing that data down they eventually got to this slide:
Yes, that’s 54 candidates which exist in a temperature range that could be habitable. While one might dismiss the giants for a moment, remember that they could very well have moons that were earth sized, which would put those moons in the habitable zone. I’ve got to imagine the race is on big time to get confirmation on these targets.
Lastly, they had a new confirmed solar system, with 6 planets, all within the orbit of Venus.
These 6 planets are all in the super earth category, which makes some of them definitely rocky.
All in all some really impressive stuff. You can learn lots more about all of it at the Keppler Mission site, where they’ve also got some great videos on how this all works.