The Kepler mission has changed the way we think about extrasolar planets and their abundance. It turns out that nature produces a bewildering variety of planetary systems, each in their own infinite majesty. But maybe, just maybe, you can do better? [more inside]
Astronomers using data from NASA's Kepler mission have discovered the three smallest planets yet detected orbiting a star beyond our sun. The planets orbit a single star, called KOI-961, and are 0.78, 0.73 and 0.57 times the radius of Earth. The smallest is about the size of Mars.
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]
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]
Tonight NASA is scheduled to launch the Kepler Mission (named after planetary legislator Johannes Kepler) with the goal of finding Earth size planets in orbit around stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the sky. Over the next 3 and a half years it will maintain a nearly unblinking gaze on the approximately 100 thousand stars in the region. NASA expects it to find about 50 Earth size planets, as well as hundreds that are larger. You can watch the launch live on NASA TV. [more inside]