5 New Earth-Like Planets Spotted

Hello, is anyone out there?

By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff | Suggested by AstroDude

Posted Feb 3, 2011 3:23 AM CST | Updated Feb 3, 2011 4:25 AM CST

(Newser) – Scientists have spotted five new planets orbiting stars in our galaxy that are close to the size of Earth and are located in a "habitable zone," according to researchers. They're the right distance from their stars that make the existence of life-essential liquid water possible. The planets are among a treasure trove of more than 1,000 new planets located by the space-traveling Kepler telescope. Another 49 planets beyond our galaxy—ranging from twice the size of earth to as large as Jupiter—are also located in habitable zones. The findings, as well as the promise that many more planets remain to be discovered, boost scientists' hope that life has gained another foothold somewhere else in the stars, notes CNN.

"It's very likely that life is common in our galaxy," said William Borucki, chief scientist of the Kepler mission at NASA's Ames Research Center in California. Among Kepler's discoveries is a mini-solar system 2,000 light years away with 6 planets orbiting their star. Kepler's telescope is currently only surveying a tiny fraction of its spacecraft's field of view, Borucki pointed out to the San Francisco Chronicle. That means that within 3,000 light-years from Earth there's likely some 20,000 exoplanets in habitable zones, he said.

This rendering shows Kepler-11, a sun-like star around which six planets orbit outside our galaxy.   (AP Photo/NASA)
This artist rendering provided by NASA shows a solar system comparison of the Kepler-11 solar system and ours.   (AP Photo/NASA)
This drawing shows one of the smallest planets that Kepler has found, Kepler-10b, that measures 1.4 times the size of Earth.   (AP Photo/Dana Berry, SkyWorks Digital Inc., Kepler Mission, NASA Ames Research Center)
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