Dozens of candidate worlds reside within the "habitable zones" of their parent stars.
- NASA's Kepler telescope has found more than 1,200 extrasolar planet candidates.
- Smaller worlds, like Earth, appear to be more common than gas giants, like Jupiter.
- One six-planet system is unique in that the planets orbit very close to their sun.
A NASA telescope taking a nose count of planets in one small neighborhood of the Milky Way registered more than 1,200 candidates, including 54 residing in life-friendly orbits around their parent stars.
Scientists have no way of knowing yet if any of the newly discovered planets are solid-body worlds like Earth. But the census, collected by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope after just four months of work, shows that small planets like Earth are much more prevalent than Jupiter-sized worlds and that multiple-planet systems are common.
"We think we're seeing about 200 multi-planet systems," astronomer Daniel Fabrycky, with the University of California, Santa Cruz, told Discovery News. "That really blew us away. We didn't expect that this would be one of Kepler's discoveries."