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January 30, 2015

Scientists find ancient solar system in Milky Way galaxy

Scientists find ancient solar system in Milky Way galaxy

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Friday, January 30, 2015

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Astronomers reported on Tuesday in The Astrophysical Journal they have found an ancient solar system with several Earth-like planets.

Artist’s concept of a rocky exoplanet (Kepler-37b). From file.

Image: NASA

They said the system dates roughly to the formation of the Milky Way galaxy. They found the planets orbiting around Kepler-444, about 117 light years from Earth. Researchers investigated Kepler-444 with NASA’s Kepler telescope using a method called astroseismology.

Scientists explain they studied the star and noticed planets passing in front of it because it created a dimming effect in which the star seems less bright for a short period of time, when there are actually planets passing between the observer and the star.

Because these planets are older than Earth, this suggests life might have existed in the early universe, the researchers say.

According to Daniel Huber, part of the research team at the University of Sydney, it takes under ten days for these five planets to orbit the star and all of them are too close to it to sustain life. These planets are smaller than Earth, with the largest compared to Venus.

This month, the number of exoplanets found using the Kepler telescope passed 1,000.


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October 1, 2010

New planet found in \’Habitable Zone\’

New planet found in ‘Habitable Zone’ – Wikinews, the free news source

New planet found in ‘Habitable Zone’

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Astronomers at the University of California at Santa Cruz have discovered a new planet which is considered to be in the middle of the Habitable Zone of its parent star, a discovery which has raised the possibility of finding life on another planet. Researchers found the planet while conducting the Lick-Carnegie exoplanet survey of Gliese 581, a red dwarf. The planet, named ‘Gliese 581 g‘, is approximately 20 light years away from Earth and is hypothesised to have a generally rocky landscape with enough gravitational pull to accumulate an atmosphere.

The orbits of planets in the Gliese 581 system compared to those of our own solar system
Image: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation.

Steven Vogt of the University of California stated that Gliese 581g potentially has a gravitational pull similar to that of Earth, which would allow humans to walk around upright on its surface although human inhabitation of the planet is in no foreseeable future. Vogt observed that there is a significant possibility that life exists on Gliese 581 g.

“Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 per cent,” Vogt said. Only lichen, bacteria and other micro-organisms are expected to exist on the planet.

Gliese 581 g is thought to have a temperature range from extremely hot to freezing cold depending on the side with respect to its star. The average temperature is expected to range from −31 to −12 degrees Celsius.

Prior to this discovery, two other planets were discovered in the low or “cold” end and the high or “hot” end of the ‘Habitable Zone’, respectively, orbiting the same star.



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  • “Newly discovered extra-solar planet may be Earth-like” — Wikinews, April 24, 2007

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August 25, 2010

Astronomers discover large exo-solar system

Astronomers discover large exo-solar system

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

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Artist’s conception of a typical planetary system.
Image: NASA.

Astronomers have discovered a planetary system that could contain between five and seven planets, located about 127 light-years from Earth.

Only fifteen planetary systems are known to contain more than three planets. The newly discovered system is centered around star HD 10180, whose properties may be similar to those of our own Sun. The researchers who made the discovery say that the system is arranged in a more compact way than our own; it is believed that the year of one of the inner planets could be equal to as little as just over one Earth day.

It is believed that up to seven planets may be present in this system; two, however, are subject to ambiguity. One of these is believed to have a mass that may be relatively close to Earth’s. This planet, if confirmed, may prove to be the smallest world yet discovered outside our solar system.

This system, however, is not the first to be discovered outside our solar system. Astronomers have been spotting these systems for several years. Christophe Lovis, lead researcher on the project, shares his thoughts about the discovery: “This also highlights the fact that we are now entering a new era in exoplanet research – the study of complex planetary systems and not just of individual planets.”

Martin Dominik, an astronomer from the University of St. Andrews, warns against describing the system as the “richest yet discovered,” as it is unclear whether other systems with more planets have been discovered in the past. Dominik elaborates: “Like most discoveries in science, the findings come with more questions than answers; but in my opinion, this is what really advances a field.”



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August 27, 2009

Extrasolar planet will most probably fall into its star

Extrasolar planet will most probably fall into its star

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

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Astronomers have discovered an extrasolar planet that may eventually collide into its sun. The planet, called WASP-18b, orbits its star in under one day, and is 10 times larger than Jupiter. Its star is 1,000 light years from Earth. The discovery was made by British astronomers. The planet’s name is derived from the group that discovered it, WASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets).

SuperWASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets) cameras on OMI mount in 2006
Image: David Anderson.

The planet is approximately one billion years old. Tidal interactions between the planet and its star are pulling them together, and it will likely crash into its star in under one million years. The planet is relatively much closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun. Earth is a distance of 93 million miles from the sun, whereas WASP-18b is only 1.4 million miles from its star.

Cquote1.svg The problem with this planet is that it’s very massive and very close to its star. Cquote2.svg

—Professor Andrew Collier Cameron

Professor Andrew Collier Cameron of St. Andrew’s University commented on the inherent problems with the planet: “The problem with this planet is that it’s very massive and very close to its star. It should be creating tidal bulging that makes it spiral into its star.”

Coel Hellier of Keele University led a group of researchers that discovered the planet. Their study of WASP-18b was published in the August 27 issue of the journal Nature. Scientists had a 1 in 2,000 chance of discovering the planet. There are 300 planets which are known to orbit stars other than the Sun.



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April 21, 2009

Discovery of smallest exoplanet yields \’extraordinary\’ find

Discovery of smallest exoplanet yields ‘extraordinary’ find

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

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Scientists have made two major discoveries in the search for other Earth-like planets. British astronomers say they have discovered the smallest known Earth-like exoplanet orbiting a living star called Gliese 581 e and also discovered that a nearby planet called Gliese 581 d, discovered in 2007, is in the much sought after ‘habitable zone’. Astronomers also believe there is a possibility that 581 d could have liquid oceans on its surface, calling the find “extraordinary.”

Artist’s impression of the planetary system around the red dwarf Gliese 581.
Image: European Southern Observatory.

“The Holy Grail of current exoplanet research is the detection of a rocky, Earth-like planet in the ‘habitable zone’,” said astrophysicist at Switzerland’s Geneva University, Michel Mayor.

Astronomers say 581 e is 20.5 light years away from Earth and that it’s roughly 1.9 times larger than Earth, making it the smallest exoplanet discovered to date. It was found using the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS). It orbits too close to its parent star, Gliese 581, which would make it too hot, unable to support life as we know it. It takes just over 3 days for it to orbit the star.

Exoplanet 581 d, however, is another story. Astronomers say this makes it possible to not only support life, but have liquid water in the forms of oceans. 581 d is approximately 7.7 times larger than Earth. Astronomers originally thought it was too cold to have liquid water thus would not be able to host Earth-like life.

“It is very exciting that such a promising candidate for an Earthlike planet has been found so close to us. It means there are likely to be many more when we search further,” added Mayor.



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  • “Recent ‘Earth-like planet’ found in April ‘too hot’ for life say some scientists” — Wikinews, June 12, 2007
  • “Newly discovered extra-solar planet may be Earth-like” — Wikinews, April 24, 2007

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March 19, 2008

Hubble detects methane on distant planet

Hubble detects methane on distant planet

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Artist’s conception of the planet and its parent star.
Image: ESA – C.Carreau.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has detected methane in the atmosphere of a planet 63 light-years away, marking the first discovery of an organic compound on a planet outside our Solar System.

The methane was found on a Jupiter-sized planet named HD 189733b. The planet closely orbits HD 189733, a yellow dwarf star in the constellation Vulpecula.

Although methane can play a key role in the chemical reactions needed to form life, the planet is too close to its parent star to support life, scientists say. It is known as a “hot Jupiter” – a planet whose mass is comparable to that of Jupiter, but orbits nearer to the parent star than Mercury, our Solar System’s innermost planet.

This particular hot Jupiter takes just two days to completely orbit its parent star, and the temperatures in its atmosphere can reach 1,650 degrees Fahrenheit, around the melting point of silver.

Cquote1.svg This observation is proof that spectroscopy can eventually be done on a cooler and potentially habitable Earth-sized planet orbiting a dimmer red dwarf-type star. Cquote2.svg

—Mark Swain

“The methane here, although we can call it an organic constituent, is not produced by life – it is way too hot there for life,” said Giovanna Tinetti, part of the NASA team that made the discovery.

However, scientists believe the spectroscopic methods used to detect the methane can be used to find organic compounds on other distant planets. “This observation is proof that spectroscopy can eventually be done on a cooler and potentially habitable Earth-sized planet orbiting a dimmer red dwarf-type star,” said Mark Swain, a NASA scientist whose paper on the discovery will appear in the scientific journal Nature.

Spectroscopy is the splitting of light into its components. As the light from the star passed through the planet’s atmosphere, the atmospheric gases imprinted their chemical signature onto the light, allowing the atmosphere’s chemical composition to be analyzed by Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer.

The Hubble Space Telescope in 1997.
Image: NASA.

To their surprise, astronomers found much higher levels of methane than had been predicted for hot Jupiters. “This indicates we don’t really understand exoplanet atmospheres yet,” said Swain.

This discovery also confirmed the presence of water molecules in the planet’s atmosphere, which was found by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope last year using spectroscopy. “With this observation there is no question whether there is water or not – water is present,” Swain said.

The ultimate goal of these studies is to identify the molecules of more Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of stars, where conditions may be favorable for life.

Adam Showman at the University of Arizona said, “We are thus now seeing but the opening salvo in a revolution that will extend humankind’s view of planetary worlds far beyond the provincial boundaries of our Solar System.”

Giovanna Tinetti, who co-authored the Nature article, believes the concept of life on other planets is not too unlikely. “My personal view is it is way too arrogant to think that we are the only ones living in the Universe,” she says.



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  • “NASA says water found on exoplanet” — Wikinews, July 12, 2007

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August 7, 2007

Largest exoplanet so far is discovered

Largest exoplanet so far is discovered – Wikinews, the free news source

Largest exoplanet so far is discovered

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A graphic image of TsER-4 orbiting its star.

The largest extrasolar planet or exoplanet has been discovered orbiting the star GSC 02620-00648, around 1,435 light years away. The planet, named TrES-4, after the Transatlantic Exoplanet Survey (TrES) is 1.7 times the size of the planet Jupiter. TrES-4 also has a lower mass than Jupiter and an extremely low density of 0.2 grams per cubic centimetre, which is less than a wine cork. Georgi Mandushev of the Lowell Observatory in Arizona said, “It’s way lower than the density of water.”

TrES-4 orbits its star at a distance of only 7 million km (4.5 million miles), meaning that the temperature of the planet is estimated at 1,327°C (approximately 1,600K or 2,300°F).

Mandushev went on to say, “Because of the planet’s relatively weak pull on its upper atmosphere, some of the atmosphere probably escapes in a comet-like tail.”

Due to the planet’s size, current theories about superheated giant planets find it hard to explain why it is so large. Francis O’Donovan, a graduate student in astronomy at the California Institute of Technology which operates one of the TrES telescopes said, “We continue to be surprised by how relatively large these giant planets can be. But if we can explain the sizes of these bloated planets in their harsh environments, it may help us better understand our own Solar System planets and their formation.”

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July 12, 2007

NASA says water found on exoplanet

NASA says water found on exoplanet – Wikinews, the free news source

NASA says water found on exoplanet

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

HD 189733b.
Image: ESA – C.Carreau.

NASA says that the Spitzer Space Telescope has detected water vapour on HD 189733b, a massive exoplanet orbiting the dwarf star HD 189733, “trillions of miles” outside our solar system. The water vapours were found in the planet’s atmosphere.

“We’re thrilled to have identified clear signs of water on a planet that is trillions of miles away,” said Giovanna Tinetti, a European Space Agency researcher and main author of NASA’s study, at the Institute d’Astrophysique de Paris France.

The planet, termed a “wet Jupiter”, takes approximately two days to orbit its sun and its surface temperatures are estimated to be at least 1,000 Kelvin (1,340 Fahrenheit/727 Centigrade) which, according to scientists, makes it unlikely that life would exist there. The presence of water was observed by using the telescope to examine the absorption spectra as the planet transited across its star.

“Finding water on this planet implies that other planets in the universe, possibly even rocky ones, could also have water,” said co-author Sean Carey of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Similar evidence for another hot gas giant, previously gathered using the Hubble telescope, was not widely accepted due to experimental noise and similar concerns.

HD 189733b is located 63 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Vulpecula.

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May 11, 2007

Hottest planet to date found in the constellation Hercules

Hottest planet to date found in the constellation Hercules

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Artist’s conception of HD 149026b, the hottest planet ever found.

File:HD149026Corecomparison.jpg

Comparison of the inner core of the extrasolar planet HD 149026b and Jupiter
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

HD 149026b, a newly found planet in the constellation Hercules is dense, gassy and the hottest planet found to date. HD 149026b is smaller than the typical gas giant and its atmosphere is much heavier, contributing to its staggering temperature of 2,310 K (2,037°C, or 3,700°F), scientists said.

Scientist Joeseph Harrington described the planet as looking “like the evil eye.”

“This planet is off the temperature scale that we expect for planets,” said Drake Deming of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Harrington said for a planet to get so hot, it must be absorbing most of the light that reaches it. This energy is radiated back in the infrared spectrum.

HD 149026b is located 279 light-years from Earth with a light-year being the distance light travels in a year — about 9.46 trillion kilometres.

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February 23, 2007

NASA detects dry, dusty atmospheres on extrasolar planets

NASA detects dry, dusty atmospheres on extrasolar planets

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Friday, February 23, 2007

This artist’s illustration shows a dramatic close-up of the scorched extrasolar planet HD 209458b, informally known as Osiris, in its orbit only 4 million miles from its yellow, Sun-like star. The planet is a type of extrasolar planet known as a “hot Jupiter.”
Photo credit: European Space Agency, Alfred Vidal-Madjar (Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, CNRS, France) and NASA.

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope made news this week when it was announced that the space observatory had, for the first time, captured enough light to detect molecules in the atmospheres of planets outside the solar system.

The planets are too far away to be observed directly with current technology, but by measuring the spectra of each planet when visible with its star, and again when the planet was hidden behind its star, the teams were able to determine the measurements of the planets spectra.

In a paper published in the February 22 issue of Nature, Dr. Jeremy Richardson of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center presented measurements of HD 209458 b, a hot, Jupiter-like planet located 153 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Pegasus. Richardson’s team found a peak in the infrared spectra and was able to determine that the atmosphere of HD 209458 b likely consisted of clouds of silicate dust. Dr. Mark Swain of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory led another study of HD 209458 b, and found similar results.

Another team, led by Dr. Carl Grillmair of Spitzer Science Center at Caltech, performed a similar study of HD 189733b, 63 light-years away, in the constellation Vulpecula. Dr. Grillmair discusses the results: “It was believed to be fairly straightforward that these planets would have a lot of water in them, for one thing, very hot water. These planets, these hot Jupiters very, very close in to their parent stars are 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit or so, so it’s not a pleasant place to live. And what we found instead and what the other group found for this completely different planet around another star, is that the spectrum is essentially flat. It really doesn’t show any of the features we would have expected from water.”

“The theorists’ heads were spinning when they saw the data,” adds Dr. Richardson. “It is virtually impossible for water, in the form of vapor, to be absent from the planet, so it must be hidden, probably by the dusty cloud layer we detected in our spectrum.”

Dr. Grillmair: “The observations are showing us that things are not the way we expected them. And so there’ll be a big push to get a lot more data while Spitzer is still alive. I think this will ultimately be one of the most important legacies of the Spitzer Space Telescope, unanticipated as it was before launch. I think it will become extremely important in the future.” The telescope was launched in August of 2003 with a maximum expected life cycle of 5 years.

“With these new observations, we are refining the tools that we will one day need to find life elsewhere if it exists,” said Swain. “It’s sort of like a dress rehearsal.”

Dr. Swain’s and Dr. Grillmair’s studies are pending publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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