An international team of researchers announced the discovery of 104 new planets outside our solar system, including four that could have Earth-like, rocky surfaces.
Scientists discovered the exoplanets using the Kepler space telescope as well as ground observations by Earth-based telescopes, including four on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
The $600 million Kepler mission has allowed scientists to discover more than 4,600 planets — 2,326 of them confirmed — since it launched in 2009.
“The diversity of planets is astounding,” Evan Sinukoff, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii who contributed to the research, said on Monday.
“We discovered many planets about twice the size of the Earth orbiting so close to their host stars that they are hotter than 1000 degrees.”
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The latest trove includes 21 situated within their sun’s habitable zone — the distance from a star that could permit liquid water to exist and support life.
The four potentially rocky planets — ranging from 20 to 50 percent larger than Earth — orbit tightly around the same star in a planetary system about 400 light-years from Earth.
Though the planets rotate around their star even closer than Mercury orbits the sun, two of the planets may have surface temperatures similar to Earth’s, as their star is cooler than our sun, astronomers said.