According to today's NASA Press Release, the Kepler mission has verified 1,284 new planets – the single largest finding of planets to date. This more than doubles the amount of alien worlds it has found to date.
Taking part in the announcement were:
- Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington
- Timothy Morton, associate research scholar at Princeton University in New Jersey
- Natalie Batalha, Kepler mission scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California
- Charlie Sobeck, Kepler/K2 mission manager at Ames
Of course, more research will be needed to determine how many of these are Earth-like planets much less if any of them are habitable by humans, but considering that just a few years ago the idea of other planets orbiting the billions of stars in our galaxy was considered the realm of science fiction. This was merely two decades ago and now we're finding planetary candidates by the thousands (and whittling them down to confirmed planetary bodies).
This is an enormous discovery for our species!
The research paper these findings are based on as published by The Astrophysical Journal on May 10, 2016: False Positive Probabilities For All Kepler Objects Of Interest: 1284 Newly Validated Planets And 428 Likely False Positives (Morton et al, 2016).