"Solar Systems" Common Across the Galaxy, NASA Probe Hints
New study argues more than 400 new worlds are definitely out there.
" Last week NASA’s Kepler mission added 26 new planets in 11 star systems to the roster of confirmed extrasolar planets, or exoplanets. The find tripled the number of known planet systems with multiple worlds that transit—or pass in front of—their stars.
Now, a new study based on Kepler data says that such multiplanet hauls will become more common, because multiple-planet systems are much less likely than single candidates to turn out to be false positives.
"What we are finding is that, if you see more than one planet candidate in a system, then it’s really likely that those are all real planets," said study co-author Elisabeth Adams, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"So, of the 170 systems that Kepler has found with multiple planet candidates"—representing a total of 408 possible planets—"probably all but one or two of the planets are real."
(Related: “Fifty New Planets Found—Largest Haul Yet.”)
The new study adds to evidence from Kepler data that multiplanet systems are common throughout our galaxy.
But the work doesn’t tell astronomers anything about the frequency of star systems that are configured like our own solar system, noted Sara Seager, an exoplanet researcher at MIT who wasn’t involved in the study.
"That’s the billion-dollar question," Seager said. "