NASA’s Kepler space telescope just keeps raking in the exoplanets, 1,930 of which have now been confirmed (and 4,696 that haven’t).
These include an impressive 234 new exoplanet candidates discovered by Kepler in 2014, which were announced at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society this week.
Kepler monitors over 150,000 distant stars, allowing scientists to detect exoplanets by measuring the way they seem to dim from Earth’s perspective. We can use those variations in light to infer the existence of planets orbiting the observed stars, and even to measure the size, mass, and atmospheres of the orbiting worlds themselves.
In this way, scientists can figure out whether a planet is the right size and mass to be rocky (like Earth) and whether it’s the right distance from its host star to hold liquid water.