CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The Milky Way has just gotten a lot more crowded — with planets.
NASA announced Tuesday that the Kepler Space Telescope has validated 1,284 worlds orbiting stars outside our solar system — called exoplanets. That's on top of the 984 previously confirmed exoplanets detected by Kepler.
A statistical analysis led by Princeton University researcher Timothy Morton resulted in this huge new batch of planets, the biggest yet. And there are sure to be more. Princeton's method puts the likelihood of true planethood at 99 percent.
Of the 1,284 newly verified planets, nearly 550 of them could be Earth-sized and rocky. Of those, nine appear to orbit in the habitable zone of their stars.
Scientists say it's a first step in determining whether we are, indeed, alone in the universe.