New Planet Discovered 2011
December 21, 2011 by staff
This latest discovery marks a milestone that takes scientists one step closer to finding a planet like our own. Two weeks ago, Kepler found a planet that was the perfect temperature. But this planet, Kepler-22b, is too big to have a rocky surface.
The new discoveries, Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, are the right size. But they’re close to their star, making them fiery hot worlds.
So now the hunt is on to find a “Goldilocks” planet with the best of both worlds: a hospitable place.
“In the cosmic game of hide and seek, finding planets with just the right size and just the right temperature seems only a matter of time,” said Natalie Batalha, a contributing author to the new research who oversees the Kepler’s scientific investigations at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View’s Moffett Field.
“We are on the edge of our seats knowing that Kepler’s most anticipated discoveries are still to come,” said Batalha, also a professor of astronomy and physics at San Jose State University.
The $600 million Kepler space telescope detects planets and planet candidates by measuring dips in brightness – a blink, essentially – when a planet crosses in front of a star. Additional evidence, such as a gravitational wobble, is required to confirm that the orb is a real planet.
Mountain View scientists manage Kepler’s ground system development and mission operations. They’re responsible for the software pipeline thatanlyzes the data – identifying the best planet candidates to forward to the Kepler team.
The first planet, a Jupiter-sized giant, was found about 15 years ago.
Kepler’s tally of confirmed planets is now 33. Another 2,326 are possible planets – of which 1,000 have been found just since February.
Tuesday’s news, published in the journal Nature and announced by teleconference, shows that the telescope is getting better at finding small Earth-sized places.
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