NASA Announces the Discovery of the Most Interesting Planetary System Outside Our Own

Meet Kepler 62, a system of five planets circling a red star, 1,200 light years away.

Artist's rendering of Kepler-62e (NASA)

The Kepler Space Telescope has been in orbit looking for planets around other stars since 2009, and it's started to find some startlingly interesting solar systems out there. 

Today, the Kepler team announced the discovery of star system Kepler 62, a group of five planets circling a red star, two of which may be capable of supporting life. That doubles the number of Earth-like planets in the habitable zone that Kepler has confirmed in the cosmos. And they're the smallest, and therefore closest to Earth size, that astronomers have detected. The system is 1,200 light years away.

This is remarkably exciting. Not only do we know about two more Earth-like planets out there, but they're in the same solar system! That sent at least one scientist into the kind of reverie that I've been having since I heard the news.

"Imagine looking through a telescope to see another world with life just a few million miles from your own, or having the capability to travel between them on regular basis," Kepler team member Dimitar Sasselov of Harvard told New Scientist. "I can't think of a more powerful motivation to become a space-faring society."

kepler 62.jpg

While scientists have found that our galaxy is teeming with planets, it takes longer to detect planets that take a long time to orbit their suns. That's because Kepler detects planets when they pass in front of their stars. If a planet takes a couple hundred Earth-days to go around its sun, the scientists need several years to gather several transits, as they're known.

NASA's Bill Borucki, the mission's principal scientific investigator and a tireless proponent of this misson for years, was understandably excited about the discoveries.

"The detection and confirmation of planets is an enormously collaborative effort of talent and resources, and requires expertise from across the scientific community to produce these tremendous results," Borucki said in a NASA release. "Kepler has brought a resurgence of astronomical discoveries and we are making excellent progress toward determining if planets like ours are the exception or the rule."

The search for planets like our own is one of the science's most exciting frontiers, and after years of waiting for the discovery of Earth-like planets, we're finally getting them. This one was published in the journal Science. It's also worth noting that Borucki's team announced another planetary system surrounding a star like our own that harbors one Earth-like planet. It was a big day for those awaiting news of other planets capable of supporting life.

Presented by

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus


Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.


Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."


The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands


'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.


Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas


The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm


Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."


Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

More in Technology

Just In