NASA’s Kepler — an orbiting, planet-finding telescope launched in 2009 — has dramatically increased the discovery rate of planets around stars other than the sun, known as exoplanets. Before Kepler, there were a total of about 520 known exoplanets, but last year the Kepler team announced 700 new exoplanet “candidates,” and this week they unveiled about 500 more. About 60 to 80 percent of these 1,200 Kepler candidates are considered likely to be real planets, and the new trove includes a number of surprising features. Sara Seager, the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Planetary Science and professor of physics at MIT, is a member of the Kepler science team, and MIT News asked her to explain the significance of these new findings.Q. What was the most interesting new planet or planetary system reported in this recent release of Kepler data?A. The Kepler team announced what is arguably the most fascinating...
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