The International Astronomical Union (IAU), the organization in charge of naming celestial objects, has set up a public contest that will let people all around the globe pick the names of 20 to 30 well-characterized exoplanets and their respective host stars by August next year. Read More
When you're hunting for exoplanets many light years away, the complications posed by the Earth's atmosphere can make the search incredibly difficult for ground-based telescopes. That's why space-based telescopes, such as Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler, are generally employed for the job. But now for the first time, astronomers have detected the transit of a super-Earth in front of a nearby Sun-like star, which could see ground-based telescopes more widely used in categorizing the growing number of exoplanets expected to be discovered in the next few years. Read More
After a 20-year search, astronomers have uncovered a grand total of 1,900 planets residing outside of the Solar System. According to a new Princeton study, the Gaia space observatory launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) could help that figure grow by a factor of ten by the end of the decade, eventually reaching 70,000 planets after 10 years of scouting. Read More
Yale astronomers have discovered a low-mass, low-density exoplanet orbiting a distant star whose orbit boasts some fascinating and extreme characteristics. The yearly period of the exoplanet, known as PH3c, varies enormously from one orbit to another, and so eclectic are these orbits that it was undetectable by conventional exoplanet hunting techniques that rely on a periodic dip in the light of the parent star. Read More
Astronomers looking for exoplanets are using a fine-toothed comb – a fine-toothed astro-comb, to be precise. And just to make sure it works, the first planet they’ll be looking for is Venus. Developed by astronomers Chih-Hao Li and David Phillips of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the astro-comb uses a new spectroscopic device installed in the Italian Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands that will detect the beclouded planet by its gravitational effect on the Sun as a test of a potentially valuable tool in the hunt for Earth-like planets beyond our Solar System. Read More
In a display of interstellar teamwork, NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes have discovered clear skies and water vapor in the atmosphere of a Neptune-sized planet orbiting a star 120 light years from Earth. According to the space agency, this may not only provide insights into the formation of giant exoplanets, but also act as a new tool for detecting water on Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. Read More
A new technique pioneered by a team of scientists from the University of Texas, Arlington, may hold the key to detecting moons orbiting distant exoplanets, a feat which is currently beyond the grasp of modern astronomy. Such a technique would afford scientists a greater opportunity of discovering a planetary body capable of sustaining life. Read More
According to researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), we might soon be able to detect hints of technologically advanced alien civilizations by measuring high levels of polluting gases in the atmospheres of distant exoplanets. The approach should become viable soon after the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is launched in late 2018. Read More
With the aid of NASA's Kepler spacecraft, a team of astronomers, including members from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has discovered an exoplanet with the longest yearly cycle ever recorded. The planet, imaginatively named Kepler-421b, takes an impressive 704 days to orbit its parent, a dim type K star. Read More
Those packing their bags for a trip to the two potentially habitable exoplanets previously claimed to be orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581 had better rethink their travel plans. Astronomers at Pennsylvania State University say the planets, Gliese 581 d and Gliese 581 g, don't actually exist. Read More