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Kepler telescope finds hundreds of Earth-like planets

The planets were spotted by the Kepler Space Telescope launched by NASA in 2009.

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The Kepler telescope has spotted numerous planets in the Milky Way that could have many of Earth's attributes, including liquid water. (Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images)

Hundreds of Earth-like planets have been spotted in the Milky Way trillions of miles away, says NASA.

The planets were spotted by the Kepler Space Telescope launched by NASA in 2009, which watches about 150,000 stars.

A new analysis of the data from the telescope shows that around 17 percent of the stars in the Milky Way have planets about the same size as Earth, said ABC News.

The planets are too far for even satellites to spot.

The Kepler instead looks at the flickering of light to determine if a planet is there in the distance - a flickering might signal a planet crossing in front of it.

The data set was analyzed by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who concluded that all sun-like stars have at least one planet orbiting them.

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The Los Angeles Times reported that the astronomers found 461 new planet candidates, four of which are located in zones that liquid water might exist.

The telescope detected 2,740 possible Earth-like planets orbiting 2,036 stars.

Despite the relatively small number of stars and planets referred to in the study, National Geographic pointed out that since the Milky Way is home to a billion stars, that could mean that there are up to 17 billion planets that have not been seen.

"We found that the occurrence of small planets around large stars was underestimated," said astronomer Francois Fressin, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, reported National Geographic.

"Every time you look up on a starry night, [nearly] each star you're looking at has a planetary system."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/130107/kepler-telescope-finds-hundreds-earth-planets