February 6, 2013 |
Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., said Wednesday morning that an "Earth-like" planet -- that is, a small rocky planet warm enough to have liquid water on its surface and potentially capable of hosting life -- could be as close as 13 light-years away. It's hardly "next door" (as a press release touting the announcement put it), in any traditional sense: 13 light-years is something like 76 trillion miles away. But across the vast distances of the Milky Way, said Harvard astronomer Courtney Dressing, 13 light-years amounts to "a stroll in the park.
November 7, 2012 |
By taking a fresh look at old data, an international team of astronomers has discovered a possible new super-Earth planet relatively nearby that could potentially hold liquid water, scientists said Wednesday. The research, released by the journal Astonomy & Astrophysics, used a novel technique to analyze existing measurements of a nearby star. The paper drew some praise even as other experts in the field eyed the results with caution. The finding adds three planet candidates around the dwarf star HD 40307 some 44 light-years away, for a total of six. (Three planets were discovered around HD 40307 in 2008.)
October 17, 2012 |
Scientists have spent years hunting for Earth-like planets orbiting stars elsewhere in the galaxy. Now they have found one that's a relative stone's-throw away. The so-called exoplanet - a planet beyond our solar system - is circling Alpha Centauri B, just 4.37 light-years from Earth. A mere 3.7 million miles from the star's surface, it is far too hot to support life. But there's a chance that another planetary sibling may reside in the system's so-called habitable zone, where liquid water could exist, scientists say. The discovery, described in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature, has further whet planetary scientists' appetite for finding nearby Earth-like planets - ones close enough for humans to potentially visit one day. "It's the most reasonable star to think about going to, and now we know there's a planet around it," said Nick Gautier, deputy project scientist for NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, who wasn't involved in the discovery.
December 20, 2011 |
Scientists have confirmed the existence of two Earth-sized, rocky planets orbiting a star called Kepler-20, 1,000 light-years away in the constellation Lyra. The planets are the smallest ever confirmed orbiting a sun-like star, and their discovery, reported Tuesday, is an important milestone for NASA's Kepler mission, which faces the technically daunting task of finding small, Earth-like worlds in faraway solar systems that may — or may not — have been able to sustain life in the past.
October 29, 2010 |
At least one in every four stars like the sun has planets about the size of Earth circling in very close orbits, according to the first direct measurement of the incidence of such planets, researchers said Thursday. That means that our galaxy alone, with its roughly 200 billion sun-like stars, has at least 46 billion Earth-size planets orbiting close to the stars, and perhaps billions more circling farther out in what scientists call the habitable zone, said astronomer Andrew Howard of UC Berkeley, a coauthor of a paper on the subject published in Friday's edition of the journal Science.
August 27, 2009 |
Scientists have discovered a planet that shouldn't exist. The finding, they say, could alter our understanding of orbital dynamics, a field considered pretty well settled since the time of astronomer Johannes Kepler 400 years ago. The planet is known as a "hot Jupiter," a gas giant orbiting the star Wasp-18, about 330 light years from Earth. The planet, Wasp-18b, is so close to the star that it completes a full orbit (its "year") in less than an Earth day, according to the research, which was published in the journal Nature.