coondoggie writes "NASA today said its star-gazing satellite Kepler has identified its first rocky planet orbiting a sun similar to our own — 560 light years from our solar system. While not in an area of space considered habitable, the rocky planet known as Kepler-10b is never-the-less significant because it showcases the ability of Kepler to find and track such small exoplanetary movements. 'Kepler's ultra-precise photometer measures the tiny decrease in a star's brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it. The size of the planet can be derived from these periodic dips in brightness. The distance between the planet and the star is calculated by measuring the time between successive dips as the planet orbits the star. Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone, the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the planet's surface. However, since it orbits once every 0.84 days, Kepler-10b is more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun and not in the habitable zone.'"