NASA announced on February 26, 2014 that the Kepler Space Telescope has discovered 715 new planets orbiting 305 stars, which also means that a number of multi-planet solar systems have been discovered as well.
“Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.”
Four of the new planets not only measure less than 2.5 times the size of Earth but also orbit their star’s habitable zones, where the average temperature is between the boiling point and freezing point of water. Scientists believe, all other things being equal, life is most likely to exist on these worlds.
The number of planets verified to exist beyond our solar system now stands at about 1,700.
In the meantime, Uwingu has started a survey to name some of these exoplanets. For a small fee, the public will be invited to submit possible names. “Names can be up to 50 characters, and can be anything you like–so long as they aren’t profane or pejorative. Honor your friends, co-workers, kids, heroes, historic figures, or your home town; create a buzz for your favorite musicians, actors, athletes, sports teams, principles, and places the same way! “
The money will be used to finance grants for space scientists, space educators, and space projects in this era of government cutbacks.