We were definitely getting spoiled. It seemed like every other day we heard about a new planetary discovery. But then this past month, we’ve experienced somewhat of a drought.
Then some refreshing news: The discovery of a new system, KOI-727, and its two exoplanets (planets found outside of our Solar System). Oh thank goodness! We here at Space Oddities needed a planetary fix.
So far, 767 planetary discoveries have been made. Here are some we’ve reported on since we began Space Oddities less than a year ago. Enjoy!
The super-Earth Gliese 667 Cc
Gliese 667 Cc, which has a similar mass to our planet and thus called a super-Earth, is located in a triple star system in the constellation of Scorpius. Scientists have called it the Holy Grail of exoplanet research.
Read more about this super-Earth here.
Small and scorching
In December of 2011, NASA announced the discovery of two Earth-sized planets that reside in a pretty odd solar system. The planets are part of the Kepler 20 system, which also includes three larger planets. Above is an artist’s conception of Kepler-20e.
Read more about the planets here.
GJ1214b – the water world
This super-Earth – dubbed GJ1214b – is about 40 light-years away and is enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere.
Read more about the water world here.
A pair of stars
Illustrated above, the Kepler-35 system consists of a Saturn-sized planet orbiting a pair of stars, according to NASA. The stars are much cooler than our Sun and the planet – Kepler 35b – orbits the suns every 131 days.
Read more about the Kepler-35 system here.
Here’s an artist’s conception of the KOI-961 system with three planets that all smaller than Earth. The smallest of the three planets, called KOI-961.03, is about the size of Mars and actually located the farthest from the star, according to NASA. It is pictured here in the foreground.
Read more about KOI-961 here.
This artist’s impression shows a super-Earth orbiting the Sun-like star HD 85512 in the southern constellation of Vela. This planet is one of 16 super-Earths discovered by European Southern Observatory (ESO) using the HARPS instrument.
Read more about the huge discovery here.
The invisible world
The “invisible” world Kepler-19c is slightly more than twice the diameter of Earth and is probably a “mini-Neptune,” according to scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Nothing is known about Kepler-19c, other than that it exists.
Read more about the invisible world here.
The planet, called Kepler 22-b, is a bit more than twice the size of Earth and 600 light years away. This would be Kepler’s first confirmed planet in the Goldilocks – or habitable – zone. This means that the planet is situated far enough away from the sun where it’s not too hot, or too cold. But some don’t agree.
Read more about the controversial Kepler 22-b here.
Star Wars in real life
NASA’s Kepler mission discovered a world where two suns set over the horizon, according to NASA. The planet, called Kepler-16b, is the most “Tatooine-like” planet ever found. If you didn’t know, Tatooine is the name of Luke Skywalker’s home in Star Wars.
Read more about Kepler-16b here.
The dark planet
According to the Center for Astrophysics, “The distant exoplanet TrES-2b, shown here in an artist’s conception, is darker than the blackest coal. This Jupiter-sized world reflects less than one percent of the light that falls on it, making it blacker than any planet or moon in our solar system. Astronomers aren’t sure what vapors in the planet’s superheated atmosphere cloak it so effectively.”
Read more about the dark planet here.
Want more exoplanet news? Click here to read about other planetary discoveries.
Say it ain’t so. There’s a chance we might not be part of the biggest planetary system in the universe.
We already knew there were at least six planets orbiting the star HD 10180, located in the southern constellation of Hydrus. Now, according to the author of this paper, there could actually be nine planets orbiting the star, which lies about 125-light-years away from Earth.
This would “make this star a record holder in having more planets in its orbits than there are in the Solar System,” Mikko Tuomi stated in the paper. “We revise the uncertainties of the previously reported six planets in the system, verify the existence of the seventh signal, and announce the detection of two additional statistically significant signals in the data.”
The discovery was made after Tuomi reanalyzed HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) data.
See. That’s what we get for demoting Pluto! Ha!
Read more about the potential discovery here.
There’s been a lot of news about planets lately.
Over the past 9 months, over 160 exoplanets – or planets outside of our solar system – have been found. Those discoveries include a diamond planet, an invisible one, and another darker than the blackest coal. That surpasses figures from 2010, where 110 exoplanets were confirmed.
This week, the number of known exoplanets increased tremendously. Over 80 were confirmed, according to scientists in several worldwide organizations. This increase in planetary discovery certainly had to do with the second Extreme Solar Systems conference. The six-day event, which took place Sept. 11 to 17, brought together hundreds of exoplanet researchers and enthusiasts.
On the second day of the conference, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) came out with a huge discovery. It had found 50 exoplanets, including one in the “Goldilocks” – or habitable – zone. That means life could be supported on that planet. Also, among the 50 included 16 “Super-Earths,” or planets whose mass is one to 10 times that of Earth.
Big. Very big.
The ESO certainly started the week off with a bang. The discovery was due to the HARPS system, a spectrograph on one of the world’s largest telescopes. Since it began planet hunting in 2003, HARPS has help find 150 planets.
“How is anyone going to top that announcement,” I thought.
The next day, UK astronomers from the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) team announced that it had found 23 gas giants, or planets much like our Jupiter.
Ok. Nice showing. But what, or who, is WASP? Does it even matter? 23 isn’t going to beat 50.
So we waited for NASA. What did it have up its sleeve? NASA sent out a press release that indicated there was going to be an exoplanet announcement with the Lucas Film guys. Hmmm? Lucas Films? What is going on? (NASA also announced that it had come up with a plan for deeper, manned space travel, i.e. Mars, asteroids.)
I certainly didn’t think NASA was going to announce that it had found Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s home in Star Wars.
Ok, not the real Tatooine, but a planet called Kepler 16-b that orbits two stars. The discovery was due to the Kepler mission, which has been planet hunting since 2009. It has helped confirm 21 planets and identified over 1,200 planetary candidates.
I think Kepler might have beaten HARPS.
You’re putting Star Wars against something we can’t really envision. Sure, we can see the illustrations, but it’s not the same.
No matter who came out on top this week, the fascinating thing is that the discoveries made a lot of people talk about science. With this week’s additions, there are now 684 confirmed planets outside of our solar system. How cool is that?
We’re living in interesting times, my friends. I can’t wait to see what they find next.
More than four dozen exoplanets, including a “Super-Earth” that could support life, have been discovered, the Eastern Southern Observatory (ESO) announced this morning. It’s the largest discovery of exoplanets reported at one time, the ESO stated in a release.
This artist’s impression shows the planet orbiting the Sun-like star HD 85512 in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sail). This planet is one of sixteen super-Earths discovered by the HARPS instrument.
Of the 50 planets discovered, 16 are “Super-Earths,” or planets that have a mass similar to our planet.
“These planets will be amount the best targets for future space telescopes to look for signs of life in the planet’s atmosphere by looking for chemical signatures such as evidence of oxygen,” stated Francesco Pepe (Geneva Observatory, Switzerland), the lead author of one of the recent papers.
One planet in particular, HD 85512 b, is located at the edge of the habitable zone -a narrow zone around a star in which water may be present in liquid form if conditions are right, the release stated.
The ESO has found only one other Super-Earth that could support life. That planet, Gliese 581 d, was discovered in 2007.
The planets were found using the HARPS spectograph on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. Since scientists started using the HARPS system to detect exoplanets, about 150 new planets have been discovered.
NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered 20 exoplanets, however, it has also found more than 1,200 planetary candidates.
It seems like Monday is going to be a big day for astronomy.
“Significant” discoveries regarding exoplanets, or planets outside of our solar system, will be announced by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Monday, Sept. 12. The results were obtained with the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), a release stated. HARPS is the spectrograph on a 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile.
What is this announcement? Has the ESO found proof of water on another planet? According to Space.com, ESO scientists “are actively involved in the search for potentially habitable alien planets — those on which liquid water, and perhaps life as we know it, could exist.”
Space Oddities has found that in 2009, the ESO redefined the orbit of a planet called “Gliese 581 d” and placed it within the habitable zone, where oceans could exist. That discovery was also due to information provided by HARPS.
From the 2009 release:
The new observations have revealed that this planet is in the habitable zone, where liquid water could exist. ‘d’ could even be covered by a large and deep ocean — it is the first serious ‘water world’ candidate.
It has been three years since that news. Is the announcement related?
There are other indications that the announcement will deal with the discovery of water on an exoplanet. Dr. Francesco Pepe of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland was part of the team that found the “earth-like” exoplanet in 2009. He’s also part of the team that will make the major announcement Monday morning.
This is exciting!
It wasn’t too long ago that astronomers said they found the darkest planet known to man. Now, they say they’ve found a planet that could cause quite the light show.
Astronomers announced late this week that they’ve found a planet made of diamond. That’s right, diamond. I know, it seems incredible and a bit unbelievable. But here’s what we know.
According to Sky and Telescope:
… Astronomers infer that the object has a whopping density of roughly 23 grams per cubic centimeter. Carbon compressed to this high density should literally be squeezed into its crystalline form — diamond.
– The object is believed to have once been a star.
– It is in our Milky Way, about 4,000 light years away.
– It is located in the constellation Serpens.
– A person would weigh 17 times more on this planet than on Earth.
– It is half the size of Jupiter.
For more detailed information about the discovery, check out this article in Astronomy magazine.