Eight new planets found in the 'habitable zone'

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Jan 6, 2015, 6:15 PM EST

According to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, astronomers revealed that they have discovered eight new planets orbiting in what is called the "Goldilocks" zone of their stars -- meaning that each world is orbiting its star at a distance that makes liquid water possible on the planet's surface. All eight have a good chance of being rocky, like the Earth, as well.

What's even more fascinating is that they also confirmed that two of the planets in what is also known as the "habitable zone" are the most similar to Earth of any known exoplanets found to date. 

The two most Earth-like planets, named Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b, orbit red dwarf stars that are smaller and cooler than our sun. Kepler-438b circles its star every 35 days and has a diameter just 12 percent bigger than our planet's, while Kepler-442b takes 112 days to make its circuit and is about one-third larger than Earth. Because of the amount of sunlight it gets -- two-thirds as much as Earth -- the latter planet alone has a 97 percent chance of being habitable.

David Kipping of the Center for Astrophysics said, "We don't know for sure whether any of the planets in our sample are truly habitable. All we can say is that they're promising candidates."

In case you were wondering whether we could launch an Interstellar-like mission to explore these planets as possible new homes, we're not quite there yet: Kepler-438b is 470 light-years from Earth and Kepler-442b is 1,100 light-years away, so we would definitely need a wormhole first to make the trip out to either one a lot shorter.

All eight planets were found with NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which, according to Slate, recently logged the discovery of its 1,000th exoplanet. And while only a small number of those are said to be in the "habitable zone," eight more just got added to that list.