A photo may be worth 1,000 words, but a new depiction of NASA's Kepler mission is worth 1,235 potential alien planets. Created by a devoted mission scientist, the image takes stock of the Kepler observatory's prolific planet-hunting results so far.
The illustration shows all of Kepler's candidate planets — which await confirmation by follow-up observations — crossing the face of their host stars. This provides scale, and it's also a nod to Kepler's planet-hunting strategy: The spacecraft detects alien worlds by measuring the telltale dips in a star's brightness that occur during these planetary "transits." [See the alien planet graphic]
The graphic is the brainchild of scientist Jason Rowe, who created it in an attempt convey Kepler's exoplanet discoveries to the masses in a clear, concise manner.