WASHINGTON – European astronomers have found 32 new planets outside our solar system, adding evidence to the theory that the universe has many places where life could develop.
Six of the newly found planets are several times bigger than Earth, increasing the population of so-called super-Earths by more than 30 percent. Most planets discovered so far are far bigger, Jupiter-sized or even larger.
Two of the newly discovered planets were as small as five times the size of Earth and one was up to five times larger than Jupiter.
Astronomer Stephane Udry of the University of Geneva said the results support the theory that planet formation is common, especially around the most common types of stars.
What astronomers said is especially exciting is that about 40 percent of sun-like stars have planets that are closer to being Earth-sized than the size of Jupiter. Jupiter’s mass is more than 300 times that of Earth’s.
Boss said finding 32 planets at once is a record “and it really shows that the Europeans have taken the lead” in finding planets outside the solar system.