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Exoplanet

Artist's concept of Kepler-62f, an Earth-like planet (Image: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/Tim Pyl...

Bookmakers may be revising their odds on the question of us being alone in the Universe after scientists revealed that our galaxy could hold billions of habitable worlds. University of California Berkeley and University of Hawaii (UH) astronomers carried out a study using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope to provide part of the answer to the question, “How many of the 200 billion stars in our galaxy have potentially habitable planets?” The answer they got back was that one in five sun-like stars may have Earth-size planets that could support life.  Read More

Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way (Photo: ESA/ATG medialab; background image: ESO/S....

The Gaia mission to map a billion stars in the Milky Way has been delayed for about two months by the European Space Agency. Problems in X-band transponders used in other satellites have begun to appear, and the ESA has decided to replace those modules prior to launching. The likely blastoff date will be in late December of this year.  Read More

Artist's conception of exoplanet PSO J318.5-22, which was discovered floating through inte...

If you think being stuck in a strange town late at night after the last bus has gone is lonely, then give a thought for the exoplanet PSO J318.5-22. Discovered this year by astronomers at the University of Hawaii, this planet was found floating through interstellar space without a parent star and is one of the smallest free-floating objects seen outside of the Solar System.  Read More

Kepler 78b has a year 8.5 hours long and orbits its sun at a distance only three times the...

Sometimes it seems as if the year just flies by. On planet Kepler 78b, it does exactly that. According to a team of scientists at MIT, the extrasolar world is so close to its sun that its year is only 8.5 hours long. That means that not only could a person go through almost three birthdays in one day, but that the surface temperature would be like taking up residence in a blast furnace.  Read More

After abandoning repair efforts, NASA is looking for alternative missions for Kepler (Imag...

If NASA has anything to say about it, Kepler is down, but not out. At a press teleconference on Thursday it announced that it has abandoned efforts to repair the damaged unmanned probe, which was designed to search for extrasolar planets and is no longer steady enough to continue its hunt. But the space agency is looking into alternative missions for the spacecraft based on its remaining capabilities.  Read More

Artist's conception of the blue exoplanet HD 189733b, orbiting a star 63 light years dista...

Uncovering any sort of detailed information about an exoplanet presents astronomers with an exceedingly difficult challenge. Despite the hurdles, however, some exoplanets are particularly well situated for such study. Astronomers have previously determined considerable information about the atmosphere and climate of HD 189733b. Now, thanks to Hubble observations made while it passed behind its primary star last December, we also know that this hot Jupiter-like planet is a deep cobalt blue in color, marking the first time that the color of an exoplanet has been measured.  Read More

The Kepler spacecraft could still hunt planets using gravity miscrolensing ( Image: NASA)

Last month, NASA declared its Kepler mission to hunt exoplanets at an end when one of the space telescope’s reaction wheels failed. Unable to keep itself pointed in the right direction, it could no longer carry on its hunt for planets beyond the Solar System. That seemed like the end of things, but Keith Horne of the University of St Andrews and Andrew Gould of Ohio State University disagree. They claim that Kepler could still hunt for exoplanets using gravity microlensing to detect how stars with planets distort space.  Read More

Planetary Resources is offering to upgrade an Arkyd 100 satellite for exoplanet hunting if...

In May, asteroid mining firm Planetary Resources announced its crowdfunding campaign for one of its Arkyd 100 telescope satellites that backers would be allowed to use for a bit of private space exploration. Having reached over US$860,000 of its $1 million goal on Wednesday, Planetary Resources is upping the ante by offering to upgrade the satellite for exoplanet hunting if pledges reach $2 million before the campaign ends on May 30.  Read More

Kepler-76b was identified using the BEER effect (Image: Dood Evan)

Due to their relative faintness compared to their parent stars, most known exoplanets have been discovered using indirect detection methods – that is, detecting the effects they have rather than observing them directly. There are numerous indirect methods that have proven useful in the detection of exoplanets and now yet another, which relies on Einstein’s special theory of relativity, has joined the list with the discovery of an exoplanet known as Kepler-76b.  Read More

Artist's concept of Kepler-62f (Image: NASA)

NASA has announced that the Kepler space probe has discovered two planetary systems that include the smallest planets yet found that lie in the "habitable zone." The systems include three super-Earth size planets, with one of them being a habitable-zone exoplanet that is the closest in size to Earth yet discovered.  Read More

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