Using NASA’s planet hunting Kepler Spacecraft, astronomers have verified 942 planets orbiting 429 stars. Launched in 2009, the Kepler space telescope monitored a rich star field for planetary transits, which cause a slight dimming of starlight when a planet crosses the face of its star. In “Kepler’s Verified Planets,” the systems are ordered by star diameter. The star's color represents its temperature as shown in the lower scale, and the letters (A, F, G, K, M) designate star types. The simulated stellar disks and the planet silhouettes are shown at the same scale, with saturated star colors. Look carefully: some systems have multiple planets. For reference, Jupiter is shown transiting the Sun. Credit: Jason Rowe.
First conceived more than 30 years ago, Kepler has shown that planets are common, and has so far uncovered 3,845 planet candidates. That's 2.1 planets per day since its launch. From Kepler data, we've learned that roughly 1 in 5 stars hosts an Earth-size world. This week, SETI Institute scientist Jason Rowe published a paper that confirmed 715 Kepler planets, which is the largest number of worlds ever announced at a single time. SETI Institute employees are key members of the Kepler team, and continue to analyze the space telescope's data in search of new worlds. Stay tuned for more news from the Institute about our work on Kepler.
Visit Jason's Flickr page to see pictures and a video of the launch back in 2009