astroengine writes "The number of known planets beyond the solar system took a giant leap thanks to a new technique that verifies candidate planets found by NASA's Kepler space telescope in batches rather than one-by-one. The new method adds 715 planets to Kepler's list of confirmed planets, which previously totaled 246, scientists said Wednesday. Combined with other telescopes' finds, the overall exoplanet headcount now reaches nearly 1,700. 'By moving ... to statistical studies in a "big data" fashion, Kepler has showcased the diversity and types of planets present in our galaxy,' said astronomer Sara Seager."
In other exoplanet news, a recent study
found that so-called 'super earths,' planets that are bigger than Earth but smaller than gas giants like Uranus and Neptune, are unlikely to be habitable to known forms of life
. The higher mass traps significantly more hydrogen during the formation of the planetary system, which results in extremely high atmospheric pressure — high enough to be hostile to known life.