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NASA Space Science

Kepler Finds Five More Exoplanets 102

Posted by kdawson
from the nice-places-to-visit-but dept.
Arvisp was one of several readers to send news of five new exoplanets discovered by the Kepler space telescope. In addition to the new "hot Jupiters" — the easiest targets to find — Kepler's early data has turned up some oddities, including something that is too hot to be a planet and too small to be a star. And one of the exoplanets is so fluffy that "it has the density of Styrofoam." The real news is that Kepler works as designed, and the scientists running it are fully confident that it will find Earth-like planets in some star's habitable zone, if they are out there to be found. Here is NASA's press release.
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Kepler Finds Five More Exoplanets

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  • yay ! Science :) (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Yay a new planet :)

  • by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:14PM (#30649540) Journal

    something that is too hot to be a planet and too small to be a star

    And I'm guessing they've already ruled out the obvious [wikipedia.org]?

  • by Greg Hullender (621024) on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:24PM (#30649616) Homepage Journal
    They're being extremely conservative here, double-checking every claimed discovery using grround-based telescopes. That's a very sensible way to begin; they'd hate to announce some planets and then have to retract a few later!

    As they get more verified examples under their belts, I expect they'll get a bit bolder. I certainly hope so, anyway. Earth-sized planets will be hard to double-check (Hubble could do it, but nothing on the ground), and large outer planets can't be double-checked at all, since they just make one pass and the next could be decades away.

    --Greg

    • by Elder Entropist (788485) on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:25PM (#30650696)

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think they need to see two transits to see the complete dip of light and a second for confirmation and orbital period. As the project has been running for six weeks, they have only results for planets that orbit their star in 3 weeks or less. Detecting Earth size planets in the habitable zone could take years before they make two transits. Detecting Earth itself would take 2 years.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dryeo (100693)

        According to the fine NASA press release, they want to see 3 transit events so more like 3 years for a planet in the habitable zone around a Sun like star.

  • it has the density of Styrofoam

    The Clangers home world! [youtube.com]

  • Yeah,uh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by flyneye (84093) on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:31PM (#30649688) Homepage

    The one with the density of styrofoam actually is styrofoam. Thats the one I worked so hard on my sophomore year for Mr. Nixs earth science class.
    It turned up missing and I got a D for the quarter. I actually don't need it anymore so you're welcome to use it as a planet or whatever.
    I doubt it will sustain life, but it will hold a hatpin, which I suspended it from.

  • aliens and other planets to some day be visited and I want it all now damnit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by chill (34294)

      Dude, chill. Check a couple stories back and you'll see they're just getting around to the flying cars everyone was promised would be here by now back in the 50s and you're bitching about 80s promises!

      Relax and check back in another 20-30 years.

  • Yale uni has astr160 [yale.edu] available Online. Professor Bayiln gives hot inner planets and black holes a good going over and folds them in with dark matter and dark energy to suggest whatever is cooking out there possibly ain't like noth'n we've been served before. It's a low maths, freshman course but doesn't shy away from anything. Professor Baylin is interesting, well spoken and easy to listen to. The production values on all the Yale courses are head and shoulders above that offered by mit and Berkeley, and, t
    • by MBGMorden (803437)

      There's actually quite a few lecture series for Astronomy (and lots of other topics) on iTunes University. I'd highly recommend it.

      Truthfully, this to me seems like an EXCELLENT idea for government funded projects. Tons of Universities receive public funding - seems like it shouldn't cost too much to just have the lectures for various topics filmed in this style and released free to the public. If bandwidth was a problem then this would be the absolute perfect place for Bittorrent. You won't get a degre

  • "...the scientists running it are fully confident that it will find Earth-like planets in some star's habitable zone"

    Good to see that we're keeping a nice and closed mind about any lifeforms that might be outside the box. Just because we're so stuck on the definition of life that works here on our planet doesn't mean we won't find a lifeform that completely redefines "habitable zone".
    • Wow, I must be in a foul mood. That just sounded terrible, ha!

      My point is that our definition of habitable is going to change dramatically as we get more information. My knee jerk reaction to the summary was how limiting the thinking was to narrow what was possible to a tiny fraction of what was out there. Our concept of lifeforms and "earth-like lifeforms" are distinctions of their own and I hope I'm around to see how they get applied to whatever is discovered.
      • by John Hasler (414242) on Monday January 04, 2010 @09:10PM (#30650056) Homepage

        > My point is that our definition of habitable is going to change dramatically
        > as we get more information.

        In the meantime, however, we must work with what we have. How likely are we to find anything interesting if we just look around randomly?

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        They're looking for any and all planets they can detect. The habitable-to-life-as-we-know-it ones are interesting for obvious subjective reasons, and also because if we've got any chance of detecting evidence of life from this far away it's not going to be some kind we haven't ever thought of before.

    • Here's the thing... if you start out assuming that life might be radically different, you finish with "and that's why it's impossible to detect life with modern telescopes." On the other hand if you assume at least some life is like our own, you can find an earth sized planet in the habitable zone and then see water and organic molecules and conclude that there's probably life. In the mean time our telescopes will improve, and maybe eventually we'll be capable of taking a broader look with some hope of resu
    • by IrquiM (471313)

      Thing is - you don't know what to look for, so you don't know if you find it or not. So why not concentrate on the things you already know before broadening the horizon when it comes to stuff like this?

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Good to see that we're keeping a nice and closed mind about any lifeforms that might be outside the box. Just because we're so stuck on the definition of life that works here on our planet doesn't mean we won't find a lifeform that completely redefines "habitable zone".

      You know, this particular thing comes up quite often around here when the topic of looking for exoplanets comes up, and it always strikes me as somewhat silly.

      Yes, of course, there could be life forms 'outside of the box' of the habitable zon

    • People, or humans, or whatever you want to call us, can't live on a planet outside of our habitable zone. There are enough of us on this rock that it's time to move on to another rock. NASA is looking for that other rock, I wish them well.
  • density of Styrofoam (Score:2, Informative)

    by ganhawk (703420)

    IIRC the density of the planet is not the same throughout. If that is the case, the comparison is pretty misleading. It could very well be a rocy core with a very thick layer of some light gas.

  • "....if they are out there to be found." They are out there whether we can find them or not. What I find really strange is why just prior to the fist exoplanet being discovered that scientists bothered debating the existence of exoplanets in the first place.
    • Good lord, the Moties are real!?

  • WooHoo! (Score:3, Funny)

    by rcamans (252182) on Monday January 04, 2010 @09:03PM (#30649986)

    Now we might actually have a chance of finding intelligent life in the universe!
    And if we can get them to come to Earth, we could even have intelligent life on Earth!

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Heh, reminds me of an old sig I used to have "Most people are looking for intelligent life in space. I haven't given up Earth yet." or something to that effect.

      • by z4ns4stu (1607909)
        I always liked Calvin's quote that, "the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us."
  • They say they know it is hotter than the star because the light curve dips more during occultation than during transit, but how do they know which is which other than by which dips most?

    Wait... I guess I see how they *might* be doing it.

    But it won't work for an object hotter than the primary. Hmmm.

    • by alexibu (1071218)
      I could guess that they are determining temperature by finding the peak wavelength of light using Planks law [wikipedia.org].

      If there was a smaller body in front of the bigger body, the spectrums are added ( or spectrum of big one * (size of bigone - size of small one) + spectrum of small one * size of small one) which might move the peak wavelength slightly. This would work for both a hotter and colder small body, and tell you size and temperature, given sufficient precision in wavelength and amplitude.
      • I could guess that they are determining temperature by finding the peak wavelength of light using Planks law [wikipedia.org].

        As I understand it they aren't doing spectra: just light curves (on 145,000 stars at once!)
        Kepler [wikipedia.org]

    • Ok. I see it now.

  • Just to throw this out there: there are already some known reasonably Earth-like planets out there [wikipedia.org]. Here's the best one [wikipedia.org]. Of course, so far there aren't that many...

  • Somehow, you knew that there was a planet "just for girls"...
  • In the future could we mine this planet for packing material?
  • Quoting wikipedia:
    Jupiter brain

    A Jupiter brain is a theoretical computing megastructure the size of a planet. Unlike a matrioshka brain, a Jupiter brain is optimized for minimum signal propagation delay, and so has a compact structure. Power generation and heat dissipation are formidable concerns for a Jupiter brain implementation.

    While a rigid solid object the size and mass of a rocky planet or gas giant could not be built using any currently known material, such a structure could be built as a low-density

    • by sznupi (719324)

      And it's even very close to a star for efficient energy capture...

    • Is there any candidate composition for it already? I mean, Jupter is slightly more dense than water [wikipedia.org]. I don't know what to make from that description of a brain, it could have all the way from the density of a nebula to a rock. But from power generation/dissipation requirements, I guess it would be composed by rotating layers of satelites. At that format, it would tend to be rocky dense, not gas dense (and cilindrical, instead of spherical).

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