The European Space Agency announced Wednesday that a new space-based observatory to search for planets orbiting alien stars will form the third plank of the ESA’s medium-class (M-class) science missions.
During the three or so years since launch NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has discovered many new planets outwith our solar system – exoplanets. NASA has announced that Kepler will continue boldly seeking out new celestial bodies, at least till 2016.
A new estimate of habitable planets orbiting red dwarf stars, considered the most common in our galaxy, indicates there may be "tens of billions" of rocky planets like our Earth in the Milky Way galaxy alone and about 100 in the Sun's neighborhood.
An artist's concept depicting Kepler-186f , the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone-a range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the planet's surface