The 2016 Mercury planetary transit is seen in a NASA conceptual image, made of many images captured by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) during the last Mercury transit in 2006. NASA/Handout via Reuters
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NASA announced Tuesday the discovery of 1,284 new planets outside our solar system, more than doubling the number of exoplanets found with the Kepler space telescope.The unmanned Kepler space observatory, which launched in 2009, has been scanning 150,000 stars for signs of orbiting bodies, particularly those that might be able to support life.It works by observing a dimming in the light of a star, known as a transit, each time an orbiting planet passes in front of it.However, Kepler is a "statistical mission," NASA scientists said, and is not designed to probe further into the environmental conditions of planets that exist in the so-called "Goldilocks zone" of their stars -- neither too hot nor too cold to sustain life.NASA saved it back then, and set the spacecraft on a new mission called K2, to study supernovas, star clusters and far-off galaxies.
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