The science team eamining data from Nasa's Kepler space telescope says it has identified 715 new planets beyond our Solar System.
Four of the new planets are less than 2.5 times the radius of Earth, and they orbit their host suns in the "habitable zone" - the region around a star where water can keep a liquid state.
Whether that is the case on these planets cannot be known - Kepler's targets are hundreds of light-years in the distance, and this is too far away for very detailed investigation.
The Kepler space telescope was launched in 2009 on a $600m (£360m) mission to assess the likely population of Earth-sized planets in our Milky Way Galaxy.
When Kepler first started its work, the number of confirmed planets came at a trickle.
Scientists had to be sure that the variations in brightness being observed were indeed caused by transiting planets and not by a couple of stars orbiting and eclipsing each other. The follow-up work required to make this distinction - between candidate and confirmation - was laborious. But the sudden dump of new planets announced on Wednesday has exploited a new statistical approach referred to as "verification by multiplicity".
This rests on the recognition that if a star displays multiple dips in light, it must be planets that are responsible because it is very difficult for several stars to orbit each other in a similar way and maintain a stable configuration.
"This technique that we've introduced for wholesale planet validation will be productive in the future. These results are based on the first two years of Kepler observations and with each additional year, we'll be able to bring in a few hundred more planets," explained Jack Lissauer, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center.
Sara Seager who is a professor of planetary science and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology commented: "With hundreds of new validated planets, Kepler reinforces its major finding that small planets are extremely common in our galaxy. And I'm super-excited about this, being one of the people working on the next generation of space telescopes - we hope to put up direct imaging missions, and we need to be reassured that small planets are common."
This is a fantastic discovery. We sure have gotten our money's worth from launching these telescopes (Kepler, Hubble, etc.) The universe keeps getting more exciting and interesting.
I read about it also. My understanding is that the James Webb Space Telescope could be up in 2018 if the project is not scrapped due to cost overruns. Extrapolating from data already confirmed by Kepler credible scientists have estimated that there could be more than a billion exoplanets in the Milky Way alone. If so the probability that other intelligent life exists in the Milky Way would be very high. At our level of technology we would not be able to contact it but supposing it had an additional several hundred million years to evolve than we it might be able to contact us. This even given that relativity says nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. That is, it might be the case that physics on the macro level can be trumped by quantum mechanics. For example, consider the phenomenon of Entanglement which Einstein called "spooky action at a distance". Information between two so called “entangled” particles on the quantum level seems to travel instantaneously (faster than the speed of light). This is not supposed to be possible according to classical physics but all of the empirical evidence to date supports it. Before we have a better understanding of such things we should not so smugly dismiss as ridiculous the proposition that other intelligent life in the universe might have the technology to reach us. Moreover, although the percentage is very low there nonetheless remain unexplained cases of UFO’s.
The evolution of understanding the universe is happening so fast, Newton's laws of motion were just defined yesterday in the scope of time. And now It is being replace, or augmented by quantum physics. Who can even imagine what we will be able to do in a generation or two.
How will our homes look and how will we heat them? How will families get their foods?
What will we use for energy?
Individual transportation 2050
We won't fool around with stories of the bible or quran, but will have some richer, more exciting, more interesting stories just investigating our universe.