This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first discovery of a planet orbiting a Sun-like star outside of our solar system – 51 Pegasi b. This event represented a watershed moment in astronomy, and since this point, over 1,800 exoplanets have been discovered, with over 1,000 spotted by NASA's Kepler space telescope.
You'd think that a planet with permanent day and night sides would be totally inhospitable. Without a sun to warm it up, the dark side would be freezing cold all the time. And with no respite from the solar onslaught, the light side would be scorching hot. But a new study suggests that exoplanets with this very predicament might in fact be habitable.
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has confirmed the presence of the closest rocky planet to the Solar System. Orbiting a visible main-sequence star 21 light years away in the constellation of Cassiopeia, HD 219134b is larger than Earth and is uninhabitable.
The odds of finding a habitable planet outside of our Solar System got a
significant boost today, as NASA announced the discovery of the most
Earthlike world orbiting the most Sunlike star yet. Named Kepler-425b,
the new world located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus
was detected by the Kepler space telescope. It has been characterized
by the space agency as "Earth's bigger, older cousin."
A team of scientists from MIT has put forward a theory that would explain the presence of enormous polar cyclones present on the gas giant Saturn. The cyclones, first discovered by the Cassini spacecraft in 2008, are so massive that they could swallow the Earth in their expanse. The research may even lead to better characterization of the atmosphere of distant exoplanets.
A team of researchers
from MIT and Aarhus University, Denmark, have discovered that
Earth-sized exoplanets orbit their parent stars in the same way that
our planet orbits our own Sun – maintaining a roughly equidistant
circular orbit. The discovery further narrows the characteristics of
worlds that could potentially play host to extraterrestrial life.
Great news if you're planning a visit to exoplanets Kepler-7b or HAT-P-7b. An international team of astrophysicists has identified daily weather cycles using Kepler telescope data on these and four other far off worlds. The nightly news isn't about to start reading extrasolar weather reports, but this new knowledge will help improve our understanding of the Earth's place in the cosmic puzzle.