Cosmic Milestone: NASA Confirms 5,000 Exoplanets

What do planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets, look like? A variety of possibilities are shown in this illustration. Scientists discovered the first exoplanets in the 1990s. As of 2022, the tally stands at just over 5,000 confirmed exoplanets. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The count of confirmed exoplanets just ticked past the 5,000 mark, representing a 30-year journey of discovery led by NASA space telescopes.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Not so long ago, we lived in a universe with only a small number of known planets, all of them orbiting our Sun. But a new raft of discoveries marks a scientific high point: More than 5,000 planets are now confirmed to exist beyond our solar system.

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2021 in Review: Highlights from NASA in Silicon Valley

Ingenuity Mars helicopter flies on the Red Planet. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Join us as we look back at the highlights of 2021 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

1) NASA’s water-hunting Moon rover, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, made great strides this year. The VIPER team successfully completed practice runs of the full-scale assembly of the Artemis program’s lunar rover in VIPER’s new clean room. Two rounds of egress testing let rover drivers practice exiting the lander and rolling onto the rocky surface of the Moon. NASA also announced the landing site selected for the robotic rover, which will be delivered to the Nobile region of the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023 as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. NASA also chose eight new VIPER science team members and their proposals to expand and complement VIPER’s already existing science team and planned investigations. This year’s progress contributed to VIPER’s completion of its Critical Design Review, turning the mission’s focus toward construction of the rover beginning in late 2022.

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New Deep Learning Method Adds 301 Planets to Kepler’s Total Count

This artist’s illustration shows the planetary system K2-138, which was discovered by citizen scientists in 2017 using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope. [Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)]

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Scientists recently added a whopping 301 newly validated exoplanets to the total exoplanet tally. The throng of planets is the latest to join the 4,569  already validated planets orbiting a multitude of distant stars. How did scientists discover such a huge number of planets, seemingly all at once? The answer lies with a new deep neural network called ExoMiner.

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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How Many Habitable Planets are Out There?

Kepler-186f was the first rocky planet to be found within the habitable zone — the region around the host star where the temperature is right for liquid water. This planet is also very close in size to Earth. Even though we may not find out what’s going on at the surface of this planet anytime soon, it’s a strong reminder of why new technologies are being developed that will enable scientists to get a closer look at distant worlds. (Credits: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (SETI Institute PR) – Thanks to new research using data from the Kepler space telescope, it’s estimated that there could be as many as 300 million potentially habitable planets in our galaxy. Some could even be pretty close, with several likely within 30 light-years of our Sun. The findings will be published in The Astronomical Journal, and research was a collaboration of scientists from NASA, the SETI Institute, and other organizations worldwide.

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Carbon-rich Exoplanets Might be Made of Diamonds

llustration of a carbon-rich planet with diamond and silica as main minerals. Water can convert a carbide planet into a diamond-rich planet. In the interior, the main minerals would be diamond and silica (a layer with crystals in the illustration). The core (dark blue) might be iron-carbon alloy. (Credit: Shim/ASU/Vecteezy)

TEMPE, Ariz. (Arizona State University PR) — As missions like NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, TESS  and Kepler continue to provide insights into the properties of exoplanets (planets around other stars), scientists are increasingly able to piece together what these planets look like, what they are made of and if they could be habitable or even inhabited.

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Fifty New Planets Confirmed in Machine Learning First

  • New machine learning algorithm designed by astronomers and computer scientists from University of Warwick confirms new exoplanets in telescope data
  • Sky surveys find thousands of planet candidates, and astronomers have to separate the true planets from fake ones
  • Algorithm was trained to distinguish between signs of real planets and false positives
  • New technique is faster than previous techniques, can be automated, and improved with further training

WARWICK, UK (University of Warwick PR) — Fifty potential planets have had their existence confirmed by a new machine learning algorithm developed by University of Warwick scientists.

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A Mirror Image of Earth and Sun

This artist’s concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Credit: NASA/W. Stenzel)

The star Kepler-160 and its companion KOI-456.04 are more reminiscent of the Sun-Earth system than any previously known exoplanet-star pair

Göttingen, Germany (Max Planck Institute PR) — The star Kepler-160 is probably orbited by a planet less than twice the size of the Earth with a star-planet distance that could permit planetary surface temperatures conducive to life. The newly discovered exoplanet, which was found by a team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen is more than just another potentially habitable world.

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Dedicated Team of Scientists Discover Habitable-Zone Earth-Size Planet in Kepler Data

An illustration of Kepler-1649c orbiting around its host red dwarf star. This newly discovered exoplanet is in its star’s habitable zone and is the closest to Earth in size and temperature found yet in Kepler’s data. Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/ Daniel Rutter

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (SETI Institute PR) — In a new paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, co-authored by SETI Institute scientist Jeff Coughlin, astronomers using Kepler data have identified a planet nearly the same size of Earth that orbits in its star’s habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on its surface. 

This new world, Kepler-1649c, is 300 light-years away and orbits a star that is about one-fourth the size of our Sun.  Only 6% bigger than the Earth, it shares its sun with a planet much like Venus, Kepler-1649b, which was discovered three years ago. Although NASA’s Kepler space telescope was retired in 2018 when it ran out of fuel, scientists are still making discoveries as they continue to examine the signals Kepler detected. 

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Earth-Size, Habitable Zone Planet Found Hidden in Early NASA Kepler Data

An illustration of Kepler-1649c orbiting around its host red dwarf star. This newly discovered exoplanet is in its star’s habitable zone and is the closest to Earth in size and temperature found yet in Kepler’s data. Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/ Daniel Rutter

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — A team of transatlantic scientists, using reanalyzed data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, has discovered an Earth-size exoplanet orbiting in its star’s habitable zone, the area around a star where a rocky planet could support liquid water.

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NASA Instrument to Probe Planet Clouds on European Mission

This artist’s concept shows the European Space Agency’s ARIEL spacecraft on its way to Lagrange Point 2 (L2) — a gravitationally stable, Sun-centric orbit — where it will be shielded from the Sun and have a clear view of the sky. NASA’s JPL will manage the mission’s CASE instrument. (Credits: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/Europlanet-Science Office)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA will contribute an instrument to a European space mission that will explore the atmospheres of hundreds of planets orbiting stars beyond our Sun, or exoplanets, for the first time.

The instrument, called the Contribution to ARIEL Spectroscopy of Exoplanets, or CASE, adds scientific capabilities to ESA’s (the European Space Agency’s) Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey, or ARIEL, mission.

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Kepler’s Final Exoplanet Discovery Revealed

Artist’s impression of Kepler 1568-b and its host star. (Credit: Gabriel Perez Diaz Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias)

SYDNEY, Australia (University of Sydney PR) — Just months after its mission ended and a decade after its launch, glimmers of data detected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope in 2009 have been confirmed as evidence for a large, hot-Jupiter-like planet orbiting a star 2600 light years from Earth.

That 10-year mission to find distant planets around distant stars has shown that the universe is literally teeming with planets. There are more than 2300 confirmed exoplanets, ranging from huge gas giants to rocky worlds, perhaps not dissimilar to Earth.

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NASA Sends Final Commands to Kepler Space Telescope

This artist’s concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Credit: NASA/W. Stenzel)

BOULDER, Colo. (NASA PR) — On Thursday evening, NASA’s Kepler space telescope received its final set of commands to disconnect communications with Earth. The “goodnight” commands finalize the spacecraft’s transition into retirement, which began on Oct. 30 with NASA’s announcement that Kepler had run out of fuel and could no longer conduct science.

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NASA Retires Kepler Space Telescope, Passes Planet-Hunting Torch

This artist’s concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Credit: NASA/W. Stenzel)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — After nine years in deep space collecting data that indicate our sky to be filled with billions of hidden planets – more planets even than stars – NASA’s Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel needed for further science operations. NASA has decided to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth. Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 planet discoveries from outside our solar system, many of which could be promising places for life.

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Two Record-Breaking NASA Deep Space Missions Coming to a Close

Artist’s concept of Dawn above Ceres around the time it was captured into orbit by the dwarf planet in early March. Since its arrival, the spacecraft turned around to point the blue glow of its ion engine in the opposite direction. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Two vastly different NASA spacecraft are about to run out of fuel: The Kepler spacecraft, which spent nine years in deep space collecting data that detected thousands of planets orbiting stars outside our solar system, and the Dawn spacecraft, which spent 11 years orbiting and studying the main asteroid belt’s two largest objects, Vesta and Ceres.

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