James Owen for National Geographic News:
Astronomers have added 32 new planets to the list of planets found orbiting stars outside our solar system.
The discoveries, announced today at a press briefing in Portugal, increase to more than 400 the number of known extrasolar planets, or “exoplanets.”
The 32 previously unseen planets range from five times the mass of Earth up to eight times the mass of Jupiter, scientists said.
In addition, the new planets were found around different types of stars, challenging existing theories for where and how planets form.
Overall, the research suggests that 40 to 60 percent of all planetary systems in the universe contain low-mass planets.
Since lower masses most likely mean Earthlike sizes, such planets are considered to be the best candidates in the search for extraterrestrial life…