NASA just doubled the number of known planets outside our solar system

On Tuesday, NASA announced the discovery of 1,284 planets outside of our solar system, more than doubling the number of known Kepler exoplanets.

The Kepler Space Telescope is a space observatory launched in 2009 with the mission of finding Earth-size planets in areas that could potentially support life.

In the 2009 mission, Kepler, which makes a complete journey around the sun every 371 days, constantly shifted its gaze as it orbited in order to stayed fixed on a single section of sky. This allowed it to monitor roughly 150,000 stars for years at a time.

The telescope searches for the faint dimming that occurs when a planet crosses the path of one of those stars. The goal of this is to identify possible exoplanets that are Earth-sized or larger and are located in zones that are favourable to life.

Since its launch, Kepler has helped astronomers confirm the existence of more than 1,000 exoplanets, or planets outside of our solar system. Astronomers now believe that, on average, there may be at least one planet orbiting every star in the sky.

In 2014, NASA started K2, a follow-up to the 2009 Kepler mission, continued the search for exoplanets while also studying supernovae, comets, asteroids, and other cosmic phenomena using Kepler. While the original Kepler mission required the telescope to remain fixed on one, unchanging portion of the sky, in K2 its field of view sweeps a band across the entire sky, pointing to a new portion of the sky every 80 days, TIME reports.

You can tune into the teleconference¬†starting at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday, May 10¬†on NASA’s website.

NOW WATCH: Astronomers say these newly discovered planets are the best places to search for aliens

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