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Exoplanet

— Science

The Milky Way may host over 100 million planets supporting complex life

A survey conducted by astronomers at Cornell University has taken into account the characteristics of 637 known exoplanets and elaborated a Biological Complexity Index (BCI) to assess the relative probability of finding complex life on them. Their data supports the view that as many as one hundred million planets scattered around the Milky Way, and perhaps more, could support life beyond the microbial stage. Read More
— Science

Hubble captures the most comprehensive image of the universe yet

A newly-released picture taken by the Hubble Telescope is adding more color to the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) image by detecting thousands of galaxies in the ultraviolet spectrum. The study, called the Ultraviolet Coverage of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (UVUDF), directly imaged stars and other celestial bodies that would have been impossible to observe on the ground, and gives astronomers critical information that will prove useful as the launch of the more powerful James Webb Space Telescope approaches. Read More
— Space

Exoplanet-hunter SPHERE achieves first light

A new scientific instrument for detecting and observing remote exoplanets has been successfully installed on Unit 3 of the ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT). The Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument, or SPHERE, recently returned its first set of images and is promised to revolutionize the exploration and study of these distant celestial bodies. Read More
— Space

Clues to hazy exoplanet complexity revealed in our own solar system

Data collected from observations recorded by NASA's Cassini mission has been used to propose ways to better understand the atmospheres of exoplanets. By studying the light of sunsets on Saturn’s satellite, Titan, scientists have shown how spectra are subtly altered when passing through a hazy atmosphere, thereby giving a greater insight into interpreting the spectral readings of the atmosphere of these distant worlds. Read More
— Space

Not enough hours in the day? At least you're not on planet Beta Pictoris b

According to NASA, 1,703 planets orbiting 1,033 stars have been found so far, but very little is known about these planets beyond some deductions based on their orbits. That veil is lifting though, as demonstrated by Dutch astronomers who have for the first time measured the length of an exoplanet’s day. Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile’s Atacama desert, the team has learned that the young extrasolar gas giant Beta Pictoris b has an eight-hour day and spins faster than any planet in the Solar System. Read More
— Space

Kepler discovers most potentially habitable planet yet

The search for extraterrestrial life zeroed in a bit today as NASA announced that its unmanned Kepler Space Telescope detected the most Earth-like planet yet found beyond the Solar System. Named Kepler-186f, the new planet orbits a red dwarf star about 500 light years away from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, is only 10 percent larger than our planet, and could have liquid water, which is essential for life as we know it. Read More
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