Archive for the ‘Extrasolar systems’ Category

A Steamy Super-Earth?

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

In the latest breakthrough for exoplanet science, a team using one of the European Southern Observatory’s 8.2-meter Very Large Telescope reflectors has obtained a crude spectrum for the atmosphere of a super-Earth orbiting a dim red dwarf star 40 light-years away. The planet’s upper atmosphere is apparently dominated by steam or cloudy haze.

Extragalactic Expat: Newfound Exoplanet Likely Came from Another Galaxy

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Nearly everything we can see in the night sky without the aid of a telescope is in Earth’s cosmic neighborhood, the Milky Way Galaxy. And the hundreds of planets that have been discovered outside our solar system all orbit stars within the Milky Way; their relative proximity permits the kind of careful look needed to identify an orbital companion.


Friday, November 19th, 2010

In the coming decades we will begin to characterize planets in the habitable zones around nearby stars. The problem is that just because they are habitable we will still be hard pressed to understand if the chemistry of their atmospheres comes only from microorganisms, or six-legged giraffes, or even sentient beings.

NASA’S Kepler Spacecraft Takes Pulse Of Distant Stars

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

An international cadre of scientists that used data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft announced Tuesday the detection of stellar oscillations, or “starquakes,” that yield new insights about the size, age and evolution of stars.

Astronomers Find Weird, Warm Spot on an Exoplanet

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope reveal a distant planet with a warm spot in the wrong place.
The gas-giant planet, named upsilon Andromedae b, orbits tightly around its star, with one face perpetually boiling under the star’s heat. It belongs to a class of planets termed hot Jupiters, so called for their scorching temperatures and large, gaseous constitutions.

Curtain to Lift on Alien Planets by the Hundreds

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Astronomers have detected close to 500 distant alien worlds so far — one of which is the right distance from its star to sustain liquid water and possibly even life — and new advances are yielding more planet discoveries faster than researchers can verify them.


Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

The science of exoplanets has exploded in recent years with astronomers able to directly image these worlds, analyze their atmospheres and deduce whether they’re habitable (or not). Now, in a new study by the NASA team operating the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope a strange feature has been spotted in the atmosphere of a “hot Jupiter” exoplanet.

What to do if we find extraterrestrial life

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

This month the Royal Society held a two-day meeting to work out a “scientific and societal agenda” on extraterrestrial life, following up on a similar meeting in January. The discussions generated controversy, conspiracy theories and a little bit of acrimony. So what happened? I was there on both days, and here’s the inside story.

Want to Weigh a Star? Use an Alien Planet’s Moon

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

It’s always been a challenge for astronomers to record the mass of a star directly, but a new study suggests a novel way to try it — as long as the planets (and moons) align.

Distant Sun Boasts Shortest Starspot Cycle

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

The planets orbiting Iota Horologii (inset) enjoy only brief respites from their tempestuous sun. The star, located 56 light-years away in the southern constellation Horologium, boasts the shortest starspot cycle ever seen: 1.6 years.

Why scientists think life exists on other planets

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

It’s only a small planet very much like Earth, and it flies in orbit around a small star much like the sun. It’s 120 trillion miles away as most of us count – but only 20 light-years as astronomers see it.

Planet Hunters no Longer Blinded by the Light

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

UA astronomers have developed a way to see faint planets previously hidden in their star’s glare. The new mode enables scientists to search for planets closer to the star than has been previously possible.

Grisly death forecast for planet found spiralling into star

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

FAREWELL OGLE-TR-113b, it was nice to meet you. The planet, discovered in 2002, is the first found that seems to be spiralling towards its star – and a grisly death.


Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Amid the breathless excitement of finding a potentially habitable exoplanet, there’s been a bit of a buzzkill cropping up in the news. At an exoplanet conference in Turin, a Geneva-based team announced that they have not found evidence of Gliese 581g, casting a shadow of doubt on its discovery in the minds of some. What does this really mean?

Is Earth Unique or Is Life Common Across the Universe?

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

The discovery of Gliese 581g, an alien planet orbiting in the habitable zone of its parent star, has added new fuel to the debate over the uniqueness of Earth and whether life exists elsewhere in our universe.

Claim of Alien Signal from Planet Gliese 581g Called ‘Very Suspicious’

Monday, October 11th, 2010

The recent discovery of Gliese 581g, an alien planet in the habitable zone of another star, has been an exciting development for scientists probing the galaxy for signs of extraterrestrial life. At least one claim of a possible signal from the planet has already surfaced – and been met with harsh skepticism among the science community.

How to find out if exo-Earths host life

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

SO CLOSE, yet so far. Gliese 581 g is the first planet discovered that is the right mass and distance from its star for the surface to be awash with liquid water and perhaps life.

Alien Planet’s Missing Methane Stumps Scientists

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

A big, hot alien planet with almost no methane in its atmosphere continues to stump astronomers, who have long thought the gas was a common feature of such worlds.

Violent Tides Destroy Huge, Hot Alien Worlds

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Most of the big, super-hot alien planets that astronomers are searching for in old star clusters may have been destroyed long ago, a new study suggests.

Mapping new worlds

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Mapping the surface of an exoplanet, or even the cloud tops of a turbulent gaseous hot jupiter, is possible even if we cannot capture direct images of the planets themselves, revealed Dr Nick Cowan of Northwestern University, USA, at this week’s Exoclimes conference at the University of Exeter.