Credits: NASA/W. Stenzel

This artist's concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA's Kepler space telescope.

PASADENA (CNS) — A space telescope developed by Jet Propulsion Laboratory has verified the existence of another 1,284 planets, more than doubling the number of planets the mission has discovered since its 2009 launch, mission managers announced Tuesday, May 10.

 “This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth,” said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA in Washington, D.C.

According to NASA, mission managers collected data from the Kepler space telescope in July 2015, and reviewed the 4,302 potential planets the telescope had identified. Of those, 1,284 were found to be more than 99 percent likely to be planets, officially earning them the status of “planets.”

Another 1,327 were considered “more likely than not” to be planets, but they did not meet the 99 percent probability to achieve the designation, NASA officials said. Another 707 were determined likely to be some other astrological phenomenon. The remaining 984 potential planets had already been verified through other techniques.

Of the newly confirmed planets, 550 could be rocky planets like Earth, and nine of them orbit their sun in the “habitable zone,” or a distance that would create surface temperatures allowing for the pooling of water. Those nine planets bring to 21 the number of planets known to exist in a habitable zone, NASA officials said.

Kepler has now discovered 2,325 verified planets since its launch.

The telescope measures signals from distant planets by detecting decreases in brightness that occur when they pass between their star and the telescope. NASA officials noted that analysts previously used a labor-intensive one-by-one  process of verifying potential planets, but researchers now use a statistical analysis that assigns probability percentages to a group of candidates, expediting the review process.

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