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NASA scientists have discovered twenty-six new exoplanets outside our solar system.
The exoplanets were found orbiting stars in 11 recently discovered solar systems and range in size from slightly larger than Earth to larger than the planet Jupiter in our system. The planets were discovered by the Kepler telescope, which views 150,000 stars in a narrow sliver of the night sky. The telescope orbits the sun.
Most of the planets orbit their stars, which are all larger than the sun, around once every six to 143 days. The largest solar system just discovered has been given the name Kepler-33 and has five exoplanets. The exoplanets in this particular system are one-and-a-half to five times larger than Earth.
Doug Hudgins, the program scientist from the Kepler mission, says that he and his fellow scientists don’t currently believe that any of the newly discovered planets can support life.
Since the Kepler telescope was launched two years ago, scientists have discovered 61 exoplanets and over 2,300 planets that need to be further observed. In order to be deemed an exoplanet, the telescope uses a system called Transit Timing Variations. This is when two or more planets are in a solar system orbiting their home star. The gravitational pull of each passing planet must then cause one to speed up and the others to slow down, which confirms a planetary observation.