Seeing me, seeing you #42Earths #3000Planets

We now have over 3000 planets identified in our galaxy, 42 of which are probably Earth-like.

Looking at these points in the sky, anyone looking back?


And then there were 8 #HallofFame #kepler

The Kepler mission continues to explore and discover, and among the most recent discoveries lie a potential Earth twin.

As discussed on

“Kepler has identified many exoplanets but few are within their star’s Goldilocks zone. Among eight new planets they have spied in distant solar systems, astronomers say one in particular has usurped the title of most Earth-like alien world. All eight were picked out by Nasa’s Kepler space telescope, taking its tally of such exoplanets past 1,000.But only three sit safely within the “habitable zone” of their host star – and one in particular is rocky, like Earth, as well as only slightly warmer.

The find was revealed at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
The three potentially habitable planets join Kepler’s “hall of fame”, which now boasts eight fascinating planetary prospects. And researchers say the most Earth-like of the new arrivals, known as Kepler 438b, is probably even more similar to our home than Kepler 186f – which previously looked to be our most likely twin. At 12% larger than Earth, the new claimant is bigger than 186f but it is closer to our temperature, probably receiving just 40% more heat from its sun than we do from ours. So if we could stand on the surface of 438b it may well be warmer than here, according to Dr Doug Caldwell from the Seti (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute in California.”

Earth is not the perfect planet #amacrojot #superearths

The search for a life is the ultimate quest. The search for life is the search for a life bearing planet, which means it is the search for a planet like our own, the Earth. So we’ve focused on the essentials, looking for small rocky planets, with a mixture of atmospheric gases, with a nice atmospheric pressure so we can support liquid water, at the Goldilocks zone of the perfect temperature. But this search had assumed that Earth is the perfect life- bearing planet. New research might just flip this reasoning on its head.

From NPR,

So-called superhabitable worlds wouldn’t necessarily look like Earth but would nonetheless have conditions that are more suitable for life to emerge and evolve, according to the study published this month in the journal Astrobiology.

“In my point of view, astronomers and biologists are biased,” says Rene Heller, an astrophysicist at Canada’s McMaster University who is the study’s lead author. “These scientists look for planets that are Earth-like.”

But it’s possible that Earth is actually only marginally habitable by the standards of the universe, says Heller, who points out that our home may not represent a typical habitable world.

He and co-author John Armstrong of Weber State University in Utah have come up with a long list of traits that might make a planet “superhabitable.”

Such planets would most likely be older than Earth and two to three times bigger, the researchers say. And they would orbit stars that are somewhat less massive than our sun.

Any liquid water wouldn’t be in a giant, deep ocean, but would be scattered over the surface of the planets in shallow reservoirs. The planets would need a global magnetic field to serve as protection from cosmic radiation, and they would probably have thicker atmospheres than the Earth does.

“It’s good to start thinking now about how do we sort of rank these planets in terms of their potential to host life,” agrees Rory Barnes of the University of Washington, who uses computer models to explore the habitability of planets outside our solar system. “I think this paper does a really good job of examining the different kinds of features that all come into play when making a habitable planet.”

So far, scientists have detected about a thousand planets orbiting other stars. Current technology usually can’t reveal much about them — just a planet’s size, density and how far it orbits from its host star.

Nature’s surprise


It used to be simple. We had 9 planets. 4 were small and rocky and close to the Sun. 4 were big and gassy and far from the Sun. The we had Pluto. The first disruption of this pretty picture was when we found of other bodies like a Pluto and so decided Pluto could not be a planet. Then we found other planetary systems in which the large planets were close to the star. Now the latest discovery might mean a complete rethink of our whole notion of planets. Now we have discovered a planet the same size as Earth, but gassy and not rocky.

Earth’s gassy ‘twin’ has been discovered in another solar system 200 light years away and is known as KOI-314c. It weighs the same as Earth but is 60% larger, leading scientists to suspect it has a thick gaseous atmosphere. It orbits a dim red dwarf star at such a close distance that temperatures on its surface could be as high as 104C – too hot for most forms of life on Earth.

Lead astronomer Dr David Kipping, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the US, said: “This planet might have the same mass as Earth, but it is certainly not Earth-like. It proves that there is no clear dividing line between rocky worlds like Earth and fluffier planets like water worlds or gas giants.”

They’re also showcasing yet again that a major assumption astronomers were making as recently as 1995—that other solar systems would more or less resemble ours—was completely misguided. “Nature,” says Kipping, “continues to surprise us.” By now, that should hardly be a surprise.

Two suns?

star wars planets.


We have always been interested in the question of life in the universe. One way of answering this question is to estimate how many life bearing planets might exist. Our approach to studying his question has been long based on the assumption that we a star like ours. It should be of average brightness, average mass, and on its own. However most stars are part of binary system – i.e., two stars orbiting each other, and we have always though that such binary system would be too unstable to have planets.

Of course data has the tendency to upset such assumptions, and here is a great example of this. New data from the Kepler mission has found a nice stable planet with two parent Suns. How will this affect out estimates of the number of potential life bearing planets. Well, if confirmed, this estimate will at least double and probably even triple. Maybe the next series of telescope currently being planned will even see these planets.

Newtons’s law reign supreme once again

Kepler planets published in science


Back way back when, our solar system ended at saturn, then after some debate Uranus was added. We had saw Uranus before loads of times, but it moved so slow in the sky that no one suspected it was a planet. Then we had a problem. Uranus was not moving it way it should be according to Newtons’s laws of gravity. As the entire industrial revolution had been built on the concepts of Newton’s law, this was a problem. Rather than throw away Newton’s law, two groups of astronomers set about the idea that there might be another big planet in our solar system, beyond the orbit of Uranus and tugging on Uranus. Both groups came to the same conclusion, predicting the existence of Neptune. They predicted the exact location to look for Neptune, and there is was. A triumph for science,for cause and effect and for the laws of gravity.

Fast forward a few hundred years and history has repeated itself. The time a planet around another star has an orbit which disagrees with newton’s law. Once again, the correction is accounted for by assuming more planets.

Science repeats itself, and Newton reigns supreme once more.