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Posts Tagged "extrasolar planets"

Guest Blog

How to find a habitable exoplanet: Don’t look for one

Most planetary scientists will tell you that the objects they study are more complex and harder to categorize than almost anything else out there in the universe. That assertion is surprising and interesting, and it’s a point that is gradually sinking in for astronomers. Much of the past 400 years of telescopic exploration has been [...]

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Life, Unbounded

An Abundance of Exoplanets Changes our Universe

Earth-sized planets near and far (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

Planets in habitable zones, planets orbiting twin suns, miniature solar systems, rogue planets, planets, planets, planets. If there is one single piece of information you should take away from the recent flood of incredible exoplanetary discoveries it is this: Our universe makes planets with extraordinary efficiency – if planets can form somewhere, they will. We’ve [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Habitable Planets

Habitable Exoplanet

In 1964 Stephen Dole published a hundred and seventy-four page document for a US Air Force project at the RAND corporation in Santa Monica, California. With not a little hubris it was titled “Habitable Planets for Man“, an extraordinarily detailed and prescient scientific study of the nature of worlds that might support life in the [...]

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Observations

Why It Is Impossible to Pinpoint the 1,000th Exoplanet

Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

The list of known exoplanets is growing so long, so fast, that it is becoming difficult to properly appreciate the new discoveries. For those of us who grew up when our solar system accounted for the only nine worlds known in the entire universe, how are we to grasp the fact that astronomers now discover [...]

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Observations

Davos: X Marks the Unknown

Earlier this month, the World Economic Forum published its annual report on global risks, “Global Risks 2013: Eighth Edition.” At the 2013 WEF meeting at Davos, a session focused on emerging threats, called “X Factors: Preparing for the Unknown.” My colleague Philip Campbell, the editor in chief of Nature, and his colleague editors, identified these [...]

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Observations

A Plethora of Planets: Number of Known Exoplanets Soaring

Graph of known exoplanets by year

“We are really in the age of discovery of new worlds.” That was Lisa Kaltenegger of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, and the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, during a September 12 press conference in which European researchers announced the discovery of about 50 planets new to science. There are now 685 [...]

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Observations

Why don’t exoplanets match astronomers’ expectations? A dispatch from the American Astronomical Society meeting

Kepler 10 b, a rocky exoplanet

SEATTLE—The most exhilarating science conference I’ve ever been to took place in San Antonio 15 years ago this week, when planet hunters Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler announced they had found two planets orbiting sunlike stars beyond our solar system. Coming a couple of months after another team, led by Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, [...]

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Observations

Citizen scientists join the exoplanet hunt

Artist

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, launched in 2009, is one of the finest and most prolific machines ever built for seeking out worlds orbiting distant stars. And at an estimated cost of $600 million, it had better be. Now anyone can sift through a bit of Kepler’s voluminous data, obtained as the space telescope gazes at some [...]

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