Archive for the ‘Extrasolar systems’ Category

Hot Earths have atmospheres of rock

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Hot rocky exoplanets may have atmospheres of vapourised rock, says Brian Jackson of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre,


Thursday, September 9th, 2010

If a volcano with the explosive power of 600,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs blew up on a planet 30 light-years away, would we notice?

Hot jupiters kick up a storm

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Intense heat from the nearby star of a hot Jupiter is creating turbulent storms that envelope the entire planet says Dr. Adam Showman of the University of Arizona, USA. Showman, who is at the forefront of research into weather on hot Jupiters, presented his models describing atmospheric circulation at the Exoclimes conference at the University of Exeter.

Methane mystery on Gliese 436b

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Observations by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope of light from the exoplanet Gliese 436b have identified an atmosphere filled with carbon monoxide but exhibiting a puzzling lack of methane, says Professor Joseph Harrington of the University of Florida, who presented the results at the Exoclimes conference at the University of Exeter this week.

With new technique, UF astronomers find potassium in giant planet’s atmosphere

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Any driver who’s seen deer silhouetted by the headlights of an oncoming car knows that vital information can be conveyed by the outlines of objects.

Still no Earths, but getting closer

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Only a few years ago, astronomers were thrilled if they found a star beyond the solar system harboring a single planet. Now they’re discovering more and more multiple-planet systems that may offer new clues about the formation of planets and their evolution.

Big Alien Planet’s Weather Forecast: Hot and Extra Cloudy

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Astronomers peering at a large alien planet have found it to be covered by an atmosphere unlike that of any extrasolar planet yet seen.


Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Of the hundreds of exoplanets found so far, there’s one that’s remained elusive and infamous 12 years after its purported discovery.
Once ridiculed as being a false start, it may have now returned from the dead.


Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Over the past 15 years much planet-hunting has focused on simply cataloging individual worlds whirling about other stars. This search was turbo-boosted last week. Two teams of astronomers reported that they are at the point where they can study of the architecture of entire planetary systems.

One Big Family: Exoplanet System Hosts at Least 5, and Possibly 7, New Worlds

Friday, August 27th, 2010

A planetary system 125 light-years away could represent the largest collection of known worlds outside the solar system

Alien Solar System Looks Strikingly Like Ours

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Astronomers have discovered a group of at least five planets – with hints of two more – circling around a star in an arrangement similar to our own solar system.

NASA to Reveal Big News From Planet-Hunting Spacecraft Thursday

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

NASA is expected to make an announcement Thursday on the progress of its Kepler spacecraft, which has been staring at one patch of space for evidence of other worlds.

New Space Observatory Could Join Hunt for Alien Planets

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

A new European space observatory could join the hunt for life-bearing planets beyond our solar system if it is selected for full development next year.


Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Scientists have found hundreds of Jupiter-class planets circling stars beyond the solar system, yet none of them share our Jupiter’s proclivity for moons. The problem may not just be that extrasolar moons are hard to find.

Confusion Over Kepler’s ‘Earth-Like’ Planets Explained

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

NASA’s mini fiasco in public communication last week was a scientist’s attempt at public outreach gone awry. Kepler mission co-investigator Dimitar Sasselov of Harvard University, speaking at the popular TED talks, tried to convey the excitement of hunting for Earth-size planets orbiting in the habitable zones of other stars.

The Kepler kerfluffle: Earth-like planets are everywhere, but we can’t tell you yet

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

You’ve probably heard of the Kepler mission, an instrument launched to find Earth-like planets in the heavens. (If you haven’t, get some background here.) Well, they’ve found some. But they’re not talking.

Superhot Planet Likely Possesses Comet-like Tail

Monday, July 19th, 2010

As if the debate over what is and what is not a planet hasn’t gotten confusing enough, Hubble Space Telescope astronomers have now confirmed the existence of a tortured, baked object that could be called a “cometary planet.” The gas giant planet, dubbed HD 209458b, is orbiting so close to its star that its heated atmosphere is escaping away into space.

Planet found tugging on transits

Friday, July 9th, 2010

A brand new technique for finding exoplanets, which piggybacks on an already established method, has turned up its first discovery, a planet 15 times the mass of Earth orbiting the star WASP-3. It also promises to be able to find Earth-sized planets.

Recipes for Renegade Planets print

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Recent discoveries of gas giant planets in unusual orbits challenge the generally accepted theory of planet formation. While these discoveries do not disprove the theory, they have opened our eyes to chaotic solar systems quite unlike our own.


Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

A reader reminded me that today is the 63rd anniversary of the so-called Roswell UFO Incident. Even if you know nothing else about the UFO phenomenon, you certainly have heard about what supposedly happened in Roswell, New Mexico in July, 1947: a crashed flying saucer, autopsies on alien bodies, Government cover-ups. It ushered in the 1950’s kitsch of bubble-headed little green space jockeys inside silvery saucers flitting across our skies.