NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope is designed to search more than 150,000 stars in order to find habitable Earth-like planets beyond our solar system. So far, it has found more than 4,000 potential planets, and according to the space agency, it just found 554 more—six of which are near Earth-sized and in the habitable zone of their suns, making them potentially suitable for life.

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Three of the new planets are of such a distance from their respectives suns that they could potentially have liquid water on the surface. Two of the three are, like Earth, made of rock.

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“Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler mission’s treasure trove of data takes us another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “The Kepler team and its science community continue to produce impressive results with the data from this venerable explorer.”

Unfortunately, these planets are quite a distance away, so unless we develop warp speed soon, or interstellar wormhole technology, any missions to visit them will take centuries. One of the two rocky Earth-like planets, Kepler-438b, is 475 light-years away and orbits its star once every 35.2 days, while Kepler-442b is 1,100 light-years away and orbits its star once every 112 days.

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“With each new discovery of these small, possibly rocky worlds, our confidence strengthens in the determination of the true frequency of planets like Earth,” said co-author Doug Caldwell, SETI Institute Kepler scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California.” The day is on the horizon when we’ll know how common temperate, rocky planets like Earth are.”

With overpopulation and the depletion of natural resources ever continuing, the need to potentially find another planet for mankind to live on is always increasing. Here’s hoping that Kepler finds one that’s a bit closer to home.


Images © NASA