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NASA is set to announce its latest exoplanet finds Thursday

This artist rendering provided by NASA, shows Kepler-11, a sun-like star around which six planets orbit and one of Kepler's many discoveries. (AP Photo/NASA)

On Thursday at noon, NASA is holding a news conference to announce the latest discoveries made by its planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope.

There's been a lot of buzz about the announcement, and while some of it has made scientists kind of cranky (no, they didn't find aliens, and there probably isn't a confirmed "Earth twin" out there in the distant cosmos) it's understandable: Kepler has found some pretty incredible things in the past, including over 1,000 confirmed planets and 3,000 suspected ones.

[Most stars in the galaxy have planets in the habitable zone, according to new research]

The space telescope -- which actually should have gone kaput after a hardware failure in 2013 -- is designed to figure out just how special Earth is. The hope, of course, is that we're not special at all: The more "Earth-like" planets there are, the more likely it is that life (in a form we can recognize) evolved somewhere else in the universe.

[Stephen Hawking announces $100 million hunt for alien life]

And when we say Earth-like, we mean it in the loosest possible sense. These are planets that are the right size and distance from their sun to be rocky planets, like our own, and ones that could potentially hold liquid water. But the Kepler isn't getting a close-up view of these planets -- it's measuring them based on the way they dim the light of their host stars as they pass in front of them. Some of these planets have also been confirmed through a second method on the ground that looks for wobbles (or Doppler shifts) in the starlight caused by the gravity of the orbiting objects.

22 stunning photos of our solar system and beyond in 2016

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In this undated photo provided by NASA, Saturn's icy moon Mimas is dwarfed by the planet's enormous rings. Consider it a cosmic carousel with countless rings up for grabs. NASA’s Saturn-orbiting spacecraft, Cassini, has begun an unprecedented mission to skim the planet’s rings. On Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, Cassini got a gravitational assist from Saturn’s big moon Titan. That put the spacecraft on course to graze Saturn’s main outer rings. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute via AP) (AP)

So while we can hope that NASA has found some more interesting planets, Kepler isn't capable of confirming that planets have life, or even that they can definitely support it. It's just good at letting us know they're there, and that they might be a little more like us than your average piece of rock in space. Which is great.

We'll have more on the latest Kepler finds at noon. In the meantime, tide yourself over with some of the telescope's recent finds:

Kepler space telescope spies a ‘Mega-Earth’

NASA’s Kepler telescope doubles number of known planets outside solar system

Kepler space telescope finds Earth-size, potentially habitable planets are common

Newly found star system has 5 Earth-sized planets, the oldest ever seen in the Milky Way

Two new exoplanets are more Earth-like than any we’ve found before

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