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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

Project 1640 image of the four exoplanets orbiting HR 8977. The image has been enhanced fo...

While the number of exoplanets so far identified is steadily marching towards the 1000 mark, fewer than twenty have been discovered in the course of direct observation by astronomical telescopes. Four of them (HR 8977 b,c,d,and e) circle an unprepossessing A5 star called HR 8977, which lies about 130 light-years distant from Earth. Thanks to the little-known astrophysics research arm of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), we now have the ability to examine the makeup of their atmospheres by taking simultaneous spectrographs of all four planets.  Read More

An artist's impression of the gas giant planet thought to be forming in the orbit of young...

The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) has been used to observe what is thought to be the formation of a gas giant similar to Jupiter. The candidate planet resides within a disk of dust and gas surrounding the young star HD 100546, located 335 light-years away.  Read More

The planets of Kepler-37 compared to the Solar System's inner worlds (Image: NASA/Ames/JPL...

NASA’s Kepler space probe has discovered the smallest planet yet orbiting a Sun-like star. Dubbed Kepler-37b, the exoplanet orbits the star Kepler-37 about 210 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. It’s only one-third the size of Earth and smaller than Mercury, which makes it not only the smallest planet yet found outside the Solar System, but the smallest planet ever discovered.  Read More

Comparative sizes of Earth and a 'super-Earth' (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC))

In the past couple of decades, nearly 900 planets have been identified outside of our Solar System with thousands more candidates to be considered. Among the most exciting of these exoplanets are the so-called “super-Earths” – planets somewhat larger than the Earth, yet some of which might be capable of supporting life. Unfortunately, a team led by Helmut Lammer at the Space Research Institute (IWF) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences has produced new models that indicate some of these super-Earths may really be mini-Neptunes, with deep, hydrogen-rich envelopes covering a small rocky core.  Read More

Habitable zone distances around various types of stars (Image: Chester Herman)

Researchers at Penn state have developed a new method for calculating the habitable zone around stars. The computer model based on new greenhouse gas databases provides a tool to better estimate which exoplanets with sufficient atmospheric pressure might be able to maintain liquid water on their surface. The new model indicates that some of the nearly 300 possible Earth-like planets previously identified might be too close to their stars to to be habitable.  Read More

A recent analysis of the data gathered from the Kepler telescope has revealed that Earth-s...

The latest analysis of data coming from NASA's Kepler telescope has revealed that nearly all the Sun-like stars in our galaxy appear to have planets orbiting them, and that at least 17 percent of them – about one in six – are hosting a planet the size of our own in close orbit. Because the Milky Way is estimated to contain some 100 billion stars, this means that our galaxy alone could have at least 17 billion Earth-sized planets, some of which may harbor the conditions for life.  Read More

Artist's conception of the five-planet Tau Ceti system (Photo: J. Pinfield/RoPACS/Universi...

Our stellar neighborhood is becoming crowded courtesy of some newly discovered real estate. Astronomers have uncovered evidence buried in the noise of apparently empty data showing that five super-Earths are orbiting the nearby Tau Ceti – a star chosen as one of the targets in the pioneering 1960 Project OZMA search for extraterrestrial life because of its strong similarity to the Sun. Better yet, the two outermost of Tau Ceti's planets appear to be in the star's habitable zone, making them the closest known potentially habitable exoplanets.  Read More

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