Tuesday, January 05, 2010

NASA's Kepler probe finds five strange new planets

Gas giants half again as large as Jupiter orbiting closer to their sun than Earth. The Kepler probe is discovering some amazing things about distant solar systems.

"Its namesake first described the laws of planetary motion. Now a 2,300-pound spacecraft directed by NASA's Ames Research Center is revealing exotic new collections of distant planets that may again transform how we think of our own solar system.

In what astronomers called an exciting step toward detecting Earthlike planets orbiting other stars, the Kepler spacecraft operated by NASA's Silicon Valley base has found five strange new "exoplanets," or planets outside our solar system.

The planets announced Monday in Washington, D.C., orbit stars about 1,000 light-years from Earth, and include one with a density as light as Styrofoam. They orbit so close to their stars that they may glow with the heat of a blast furnace. One searing world, Kepler 8b, burns at more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than the melting point of iron."

Stories such as this are one of the very few reasons I'd wish to hang around another couple centuries or thereabouts. Lisa of course is another, and I'd only stay if she could too. Then we could check out the galaxy and most certainly be deported from Alpha Centauri C as undesirable aliens.

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