The amazing alien planet discoveries of 2013

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The amazing alien planet discoveries of 2013



The range of alien planets found in 2013 ranged from planets that would be perfect for Earthlings...if only they weren't so hot or were 'water worlds.'

While astronomers didn't bag that elusive first "alien Earth" in 2013, they made plenty of exciting exoplanet discoveries during the past year.

Here's a list of the top exoplanet finds of 2013, from a tiny world about the size of Earth's moon to a blue gas giant on which it rains molten glass:

The smallest exoplanet

In February, astronomers announced the discovery of Kepler-37b, the smallest alien world ever found around a sun-like star. The planet is about 2,400 miles (3,900 kilometers) wide, making it just slightly larger than Earth's moon. [9 Exoplanets That Could Host Alien Life]

Kepler-37b, which was spotted by NASA's prolific Kepler space telescope, lies about 215 light-years from Earth. The exoplanet is likely far too hot to host life as we know it; it zips around its parent star once every 13 days.

The most Earthlike world yet

Also this year, researchers found the closest thing to an Earth twin in size and composition, though it's far too hot to support life as we know it.

Kepler-78b is just 20 percent wider and about 80 percent more massive than our planet, with a density nearly identical to that of Earth. The alien world, which is about 400 light-years from Earth, lies just 900,000 miles (1.5 million km) from its host star and completes one orbit every 8.5 hours. Surface temperatures on Kepler-78b likely top 3,680 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius), researchers say.

1,000 alien planets

Astronomers found the first-ever planets orbiting a star other than our sun in 1992. And in 2013, barely two decades later, they notched alien world number 1,000 — at least according to some tallies.

Two of the five main databases that catalog alien-planet discoveries passed the 1,000 mark this year, with both the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia and the Exoplanets Catalog, run by theUniversity of Puerto Rico at Arecibo's Planetary Habitability Laboratory, recording 1,056 alien worlds as of today (Dec. 26).

The other three databases — the NASA Exoplanet Archive, the Exoplanet Orbit Database, and the Open Exoplanet Catalog — have the tally at 976, 756 and 973, respectively. (The different numbers reflect the uncertainties inherent in exoplanet detection and confirmation.)

The first exoplanet cloud map

Also this year, astronomers created the first-ever cloud map on a planet beyond our solar system.

After observing the planet — a gas giant named Kepler-7b — for more than three years with NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, scientists detected a reflective signature that they interpreted as clouds. [Gallery: A World of Kepler Planets]

The west side of Kepler-7b's atmosphere harbors many clouds while the east side has clear skies, researchers say. The planet, which was discovered in 2010, is about 1.5 times the size of Jupiter but less than half as massive.

Two potentially habitable 'water worlds'

In April, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f, two explanets in the same solar system that both may be capable of supporting life as we know it.

The alien worlds are slightly larger than Earth, and modeling studies suggest that each is probably covered by an uninterrupted global ocean. Kepler-62e and f "look very good as possibilities for looking for life," Kepler mission principal investigator Bill Borucki, of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said back in April.
The amazing alien planet discoveries of 2013 | MNN - Mother Nature Network
 
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Kepler Telescope Finds Plethora of Earth-Size Planets

NASA’s premier planet-hunting scope turns up 647 possible Earth-size worlds in the Milky Way

By Clara Moskowitz

A little more than two decades ago no planets had ever been detected outside the solar system. Now, more than 1,000 extrasolar planets have been confirmed, and on Monday the team behind the Kepler Space Telescope announced a haul of 833 more candidate planets to consider adding to the tally.

This embarrassment of riches is far beyond what scientists dared to hope for before NASA launched the Kepler mission in 2009. The telescope, orbiting the sun, identifies planets by watching them “transit,” or pass in front of, their stars, briefly dimming the stars’ light. “When I first started working with Kepler right before launch, I thought there would be maybe a thousand planets that Kepler would find,” Jason Rowe, an astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, said during a press conference Monday at the Kepler Science Conference in Moffett Field, Calif.

In actuality, Kepler has uncovered more than 3,500 candidate exoplanets in its first three years, including large and small planets, rocky and gaseous worlds, and a total of 647 possible planets that appear to be Earth-size. “We’re finding that there’s a wide variety of systems out there. If you can imagine it, the universe probably makes it,” Rowe said.
Kepler Telescope Finds Plethora of Earth-Size Planets: Scientific American

Personnaly, I'd like us to send up a half dozen extra-powerful keplers....
 

TheOldSchool

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Personnaly, I'd like us to send up a half dozen extra-powerful keplers....
There are a few missions in the works to go visit moons in the solar system that could harbor life.

Finding out about these planets is cool, but I'd rather explore the places in our solar system that we can actually send machinery to.

Regardless, both deserve more funding :thup:
 

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Within our own solar system, I would be surprised if we do not find life not as we know it. Possibly on one or more moons, maybe in the clouds of Jupiter. Going to be a very interesting time for the explorers in this century.
 
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TheOldSchool

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Within our own solar system, I would be surprised if we do not find life not as we know it. Possibly on one or more moons, maybe in the clouds of Jupiter. Going to be a very interesting time for the explorers in this century.
I want to see some exploration of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. But it's looking more and more like Cassini might be the last major project anywhere in NASA's future.

Meanwhile Virgin Galactic can take people into space for 5 - 10 minutes. Yea there's the future of space exploration. Wtf America.
 

Delta4Embassy

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Within our own solar system, I would be surprised if we do not find life not as we know it. Possibly on one or more moons, maybe in the clouds of Jupiter. Going to be a very interesting time for the explorers in this century.
Europa's my bet. Liquid water ocean? May not be Flipper or anything, but some kind of extremophile wouldn't be surprising.

PlanetQuest - The Search for Another Earth

4579 planets so far (nearly 1000 confirmed, rest are "candidates" but as sure as a scientific "theory" site explains candidate vs confirmed.)
 
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I'd like to see a probe land on Europa and a rover for Titan....

Maybe a super Kepler for extrasolar planet discoveries that's capable of scanning a few tens of millions of stars. The current one can track maybe 100,000 stars...Make this one capable of looking at longer orbit planets of earth size.

Obama hasn't been very pro-science within these areas. Both parties stink at this moment.
 
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And people wonder why I feel a certain parties anti-science? You people support blowing up tens of thousands of our young men and spending trillions...But when it comes to strengthening our abilities in science = too much.
 

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Just to make sure this is a proper rep request, What party is that exactly troll?
 

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