If we found it orbiting another star, this world would surely be hailed as the most Earthlike exoplanet known: the best place yet to search for alien life. No doubt you sense there is a catch, and indeed there is. It is not orbiting another star; it is the planet closest to home right here in our own solar system. The world I’m talking about is Venus: The Earth-Twin Planet That Nobody Talks About
Explore the Exoplanets courtesy of Nasa. ""Eyes on Exoplanets" provides a scientifically accurate, fully rendered 3D universe of the 900-plus "Exoplanet" discoveries." [via NASA/Kepler, via NASAPlanetQuest]. Kepler/Exoplanets previously on Mefi 1 2 3 4 and (from 2002) 5.
Chandra Sky Map - Joe DePasquale runs through the process of creating the map and some helpful tips for using the interactive tool.
"A mission scientist with NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, Natalie Batalha hunts for exoplanets — Earth-sized planets beyond our solar system that might harbor life. She speaks about unexpected connections between things like love and dark energy, science and gratitude, and how "exploring the heavens" brings the beauty of the cosmos and the exuberance of scientific discovery closer to us all". (Audio link of interview at top left corner of page, other relevant links at bottom of page)
Fomalhaut is a magnitude 1.16 star in the "Piscis Austrinis" or "Southen Fish," and one of the first stars discovered with an extrasolar planet (previously). It has been dubbed "The Eye of Sauron" after a stunning picture taken in 2008 of its debris ring. There was some controversy about the exoplanet, dubbed "Fomalhaut b" though as it turns out, its orbit is stranger than expected.
Well now, this is an interesting discovery... Reexamination of data collect through HARPS has resulted in finding three additional planets bringing the total to six. One of which is safely within the goldilocks zone of its star.
The light from a primary rainbow is partially polarised. Now, in a paper accepted by the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, the authors show how to use the weak signal from rainbows in starlight reflected by exoplanets to detect the presence of liquid water clouds. [arXiv preprint link]
In particular, liquid water clouds covering as little as 10%-20% of the planetary surface, with more than half of these covered by ice clouds, still create a polarized rainbow feature in the planetary signal. Indeed, calculations of flux and polarization signals of an exoplanet with a realistic Earth-like cloud coverage, show a strong polarized rainbow feature.
NASAs Kepler mission has discovered over 1,100 extrasolar planet candidates. Including, "68 Earth-sized, 288 super-Earth-sized, 662 Neptune-sized, and 165 Jupiter-sized planets". 54 are found in their star's habitable zone, with five of those considered "near-Earth sized" [more inside]
Astronomers have found the first exoplanet within the "habitable" band around a star, or within the distance band around a start that would allow for liquid water. The planet is roughly 3 times the size of the Earth and orbits red dwarf Gliese 581 every 36.6 days at a distance of about 13 million miles.
Amid news of new extrasolar planet discoveries, including a system with a possible 7 planets, Greg Laughlin and Sam Arbesman have released a paper that will be published next month in the open-access journal PLoS One. "A Scientometric Prediction of the Discovery of the First Potentially Habitable Planet with a Mass Similar to Earth" (pdf of full paper) boldly predicts that: "the first potentially habitable planet will be discovered, in this case, as early as May 2011, and likely by the end of 2013." NASA's Kepler mission is set to release data on hundreds of candidate planets early next year. The mission has discovered 7 so far. (Pre-vio-usly)
Scientists at NASA will announce the first findings from the Kepler mission next month. The results have caught scientists off-guard but they aren't giving any hints as to what mission co-investigator David Latham "was not prescient enough to anticipate". [more inside]
Scientists have discovered a planet composed of scorching hot ice. Originally thought to be a gas giant due to its mass, its actually only four times the size of Earth and most likely composed of exotic forms of ice, such as Ice VII and Ice X with s surface temperature of 300° C.
Spacefilter: ESA telescope detects planet 20 lightyears away with a temperature between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, dubbed "most Earth-like planet yet."
The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia gives detailed information on all the planets scientists have found outside the solar system. Nerd chic.