When the Kepler spacecraft finds a giant planet closely orbiting a star, there’s a one in three chance that it’s not really a planet at all.
Archive for the ‘Extrasolar systems’ Category
Throughout 2011 there was a string of breathless news stories about astronomers finding extrasolar planets in the habitable zones surrounding their stars.
This is the “Goldilocks Zone” where temperatures are just right for water to remain in liquid form and presumably nurture life as we know it.
Huge excitement last week. Two Earth-size planetsfound orbiting a sun-like star less than a thousand light-years away. This comes two weeks after the stunning announcement of another planet orbiting another star at precisely the right distance — within the “habitable zone” that is not too hot and not too cold — to allow for liquid water and therefore possible life.
Remember the scene in the first “Star Wars” movie where Luke Skywalker gazes off in the distance and sees two suns above the horizon? That sort of world actually exists. Scientists using NASA’s Kepler space telescope and other instruments have found the first planet that orbits two suns, a discovery made with the help of researchers from San Diego State University.
Astronomers have detected massive quantities of water in a planet-forming gas disk around a young star
The first direct image of a planet in the process of forming around its star has been captured by University of Hawaii astronomer Adam Kraus.
In a case of science fiction turning into fact, astronomers have detected a planet orbiting two stars, nicknamed Tatooine after the fictional planet that was home to Luke Skywalker++
Liquid water is stable on the surface of Gliese 581d according to new global circulation models, and combined with observations from Canadian space telescope MOST that show the host star has a low level of activity, the finding bodes well for the habitability of the “super-Earth”.
The orbits of planets in the Gliese 581 system are compared to those of our own solar system. The Gliese 581 star has about 30 percent the mass of our sun, and the outermost planet is closer to its star than we are to the sun. Gliese 581d might be able to sustain liquid water on its surface.
On a very dark and clear night far from city lights, you can just make out 55 Cancri as a 6.0-magnitude pinprick in northern Cancer. Shining from 41 light-years away, it’s a main-sequence G8 star a little cooler and dimmer than the Sun. Last Friday it became the brightest star in the sky known to have a planet transiting across its face.
Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have detected the first object clearing its path in the dusty, short-lived disc surrounding a young star.
Our galaxy could be home to a whopping 50 billion planets, say scientists working on NASA’s Kepler planet-hunting telescope.
While Kepler hasn’t found nearly that many planets — to date it’s counted 1,235 candidate planets — that cosmic tally is researchers’ best guess, extrapolated from preliminary data. The Kepler spacecraft, which launched in March 2009, is the world’s most sophisticated observatory dedicated to studying alien planets.
Harvard Astronomy Lecturer Howard A. Smith recently declared that life beyond Earth is impossible, after examining some 500 planets and finding that they were all hostile to life, but not all members of the Harvard community are convinced.
Astronomers have found the hottest planet yet, a gas giant with a temperature of nearly 3200 °C, which is hotter than some stars.
Recently published in an article of the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal, a group of researchers from the Institute of Space Sciences (IEEC-CSIC) at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona has discovered, for the first time, a delta Scuti pulsating star that hosts a hot giant transiting planet.
Earthlings will surely thrill at finding their planetary double: our calculation suggests the discovery could happen next year
The alien planet Gliese 581g has been getting a lot of attention recently as a possibly habitable world, but a case is building for its next-door neighbor as a good candidate for extraterrestrial life, too.
The recent and scientifically controversial announcement of arsenic-eating microbes in the eastern California desert has ratcheted up the expectation of finding life among the stars.
A team of astronomers, including two NASA Sagan Fellows, has made the first characterizations of a super-Earth’s atmosphere, by using a ground-based telescope. A super-Earth is a planet up to three times the size of Earth and weighing up to 10 times as much. The findings, reported in the Dec. 2 issue of the journal Nature, are a significant milestone toward eventually being able to probe the atmospheres of Earth-like planets for signs of life.
In December 2009, astronomers announced the discovery of a super-Earth known as GJ 1214b. At the time, they reported signs that the newfound world likely had a thick, gaseous atmosphere. Now, a team led by Jacob Bean (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) has made the first measurements of GJ 1214b’s atmosphere. However, the measurements raise as many questions about the planet’s atmospheric composition as they answer.