NASA will host a news teleconference at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT) Thursday, April 17, to announce a new discovery made by its planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope. NASA hosts conferences all the time, what makes this one so special? Well, two reasons: first of all, there’s a big paper published in the journal Science, which will not be published until this conference. They want to first make the announcement public, which is something you usually do only for big discoveries. As for the second reason, let me just tell you who they have on the panel:

— Douglas Hudgins, exoplanet exploration program scientist, NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington

— Elisa Quintana, research scientist, SETI Institute at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

— Tom Barclay, research scientist, Bay Area Environmental Research Institute at Ames

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— Victoria Meadows, professor of astronomy at the University of Washington, Seattle, and principal investigator for the Virtual Planetary Laboratory, a team in the NASA Astrobiology Institute at Ames

So they have someone from SETI, an astrobiologist and an exoplanet scientist… I’m not thinking it’s any sort of alien life, don’t get your hopes up, but it’s probably something related to that – potentially habitable planets, life supporting conditions, earth-like planets – my hunch is somewhere in that area.

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Kepler space telescope. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The last conference they made had a pretty similar panel and the discovery was pretty big: no less than 715 worlds found by the Kepler telescope, some of which greatly resemble our Earth! To make things even more mysterious, that time there was not an “embargo” on that discovery, so this time, it may be even more shocking.

Well, no sense in needlessly hyping this up – we’ll keep you posted when it happens