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Beautiful Video Imagines the Thousands of Known Exoplanets Orbiting a Single Star

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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LONG BEACH, Calif.—Yesterday I wrote about the excitement at the American Astronomical Meeting here about new exoplanet discoveries. Scientists working on the Kepler satellite announced the discovery of an additional 461 planet candidates, bringing the total to 2,740. What are these planets like? Alex Parker, a postdoctoral researcher in planetary science at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has created this amazing video that imagines all the planets from last year’s data set orbiting a single star:

Here’s Parker describing what’s in the video (note: r* = the radius of Earth):

They are drawn to scale with accurate radii (in r / r* ), orbital periods, and orbital distances (in d / r*). They range in size from 1/3 to 84 times the radius of Earth. Colors represent an estimate of equilibrium temperature, ranging from 4,586 C at the hottest to -110 C at the coldest – red indicates warmest, and blue / indigo indicates coldest candidates.

The full HD video is available for download on Kepler’s main Web site.

About the Author: Michael Moyer is the editor in charge of space and physics coverage at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @mmoyr.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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