Finding More in the Skies With Kepler’s Eyes!

January 29, 2012 at 3:12 AM (astronomy topics, curious research, current news, extraterrestrial studies, late night studies, science and technology, web gossip)

The search continues, as new and exciting results seem to be revealed regularly!  The latest reports are showing that twenty-six newly discovered extra-solar planets have been identified.  It is all the more interesting because this raises the number of planetary systems with two or more planets in them, including our solar system, to a total of fifty-four!

The Kepler Mission, organized by N.A.S.A., named for reknowned astronomer Johannes Kepler, was launched in 2009.  It’s mission is to survey the nearest areas of our portion of The Milky Way, in order to find out how many of the stars in this region are the hosts to planets.  The Kepler Spacecraft contains a photometer, which is a tool that views the brightness of stars, sends the data to Earth, and it is examined to recognize the number of transits that occur with these stars.  The transits display how often the stars dim within the images, showing how often planets pass in front of these stars, which causes the momentary dimming.

These recent discoveries do not identify the differences of the extrasolar planets, relating them being gas giants, or them being rocky worlds, similar to the inner planets of our solar system.  Prior images from Kepler have shown the existences of rocky worlds, including those found within The Cygnus Constellation.  At an estimated distance of 4,500 light years away, Cygnus contains at least twelve stars that host planets.  The standout stars of Cygnus are Alberio and Deneb.

Two worlds that are near to the size of Earth have been identified.  Both planets are extremely hot, as they orbit a G-type star within Cygnus, which is a star akin to The Sun.  These planets orbit this star at distances closer than Mercury is to The Sun!  One of the worlds has been reviewed as being 1.03 times the size of Earth, which is basically the same size as our planet.  Yet, due to it being so close to it’s star, no life (as we understand it) could exist because of the heat!

Of the planetary systems currently recognized, there are twenty-eight systems that have multiple planets.  This includes our system, which presently acknowledges eight planets.  One of the extra-solar systems is suspected to have five worlds, two of them may have six worlds, five of them may have four worlds, and eleven of them may have three worlds.  As of 2011, Kepler identified over 1,200 candidate planets, with 408 of them possibly existing within multiple-planet systems.  Our solar system is the one that hosts the largest amount of verified planets.  Recall that Pluto no longer is considered as a fully-fledged planet!




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