National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) researchers on Monday announced they had found 10 roughly Earth-size worlds in the habitable zones of their host stars.
Researchers added that NASA’s Kepler space telescope discovered the world's among 219 possible planets orbiting distant stars it had detected overall.
“Kepler planets had appeared to span all sizes between one and four times the size of Earth, but when measured precisely, small planets [fall] into two distinct size groups,” researcher Benjamin Fulton said of Kepler’s latest discovery, according to CBS News.
“Most of the planets in the first group may be akin to the Earth, with rocky surfaces and little to no atmospheres,” he continued.
“Planets in the second group are probably like cousins of Neptune with thick atmospheres and no surface to speak of. Intermediate-size planets between these two size groups are relatively rare.”
NASA’s official Twitter account for its Kepler satellite on Monday celebrated the agency’s find in outer space.
CBS News reported that the new Kepler analysis indicates extra-solar planets form in three general sizes, not two as previously believed.
Fulton, who researches at the University of Hawaii and the California Institute of Technology, said the data reveals “a major new division in the family tree of exoplanets.”
“[It’s] somewhat analogous to the discovery that mammals and lizards are separate branches on the tree of life.”
Kepler has reportedly noticed 4,034 planet candidates overall after Monday’s analysis, with 2,335 of that total having since been confirmed via further observation and research.
More than 30 of 49 terrestrial candidates have been confirmed to orbit in habitable zones that may boast liquid water, raising the possibility of Earth-like life there.