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Kepler Detects Potential 'Habitable Zone' Planets

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Published on Feb 2, 2011

Feb. 2, 2011

A NASA telescope has detected signs of more than 1,200 possible planets outside of our solar system, and dozens of them are in the "habitable zone" around their stars where life might exist.

"Kepler has blown the lid off of everything that we know about extrasolar planets."

- Debra Fischer, professor of astronomy, Yale University

The Kepler space telescope was launched in 2009 to find planets similar to Earth — rocky, potentially habitable alien worlds. Since then, the telescope has been staring at more than 150,000 stars in one small patch of sky. It's looking for the slight dimming in the brightness of stars that could be caused by a passing planet.

At a news conference, William Borucki, the mission's principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center, said that in its first four months of operation, Kepler has found an amazing number of events that could mean a planet is circling a star: 1,235 possible planets.

The amount of dimming reveals the planet's size, and Borucki says these possible planets come in all sizes.

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