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NASA: Kepler Satellite Finds 11 New Planetary Systems With 26 Planets

NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed 11 new planetary systems hosting 26 planets, bringing the total number discovered by the Kepler satellite to more than 60, the space agency announced on Thursday.

The newly discovered planets range in size from 1.5 times the radius of Earth to larger than Jupiter, and orbit their stars once every six to 143 days, according to a NASA statement.

"Prior to the Kepler mission, we knew of perhaps 500 exoplanets across the whole sky," Kepler program scientist Doug Hudgins said in a statement. "Now, in just two years staring at a patch of sky not much bigger than your fist, Kepler has discovered more than 60 planets and more than 2,300 planet candidates. This tells us that our galaxy is positively loaded with planets of all sizes and orbits."

A study published earlier this month in the journal Nature indicates that there might be as many as 160 billion planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way, alone.

Launched in 2009, the satellite was designed to keep constant surveillance on tens of thousands of stars in a small patch of the night sky to look for evidence of planets orbiting them. Such evidence includes dips in the stars' brightness as their planets move in front of them relative to Kepler.

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// July 23