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Extrasolar Planets

Extraterrestrial Life

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  1. Astrobiology
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  1. "Earth-Like" Planet Found (CNN News)
      "In a discovery that has left one expert stunned, European astronomers have found one of the smallest planets known outside our solar system, a world about 14 times the mass of our own around a star much like the sun." "The star, mu Arae, is visible under dark skies from the Southern Hemisphere." 8-04

  2. -Breakthrough Findings of New Worlds (
      "On Tuesday, a team of stargazers using the European Southern Observatory in the high Chilean desert announced they'd detected a system of at least five, and maybe as many as seven, planets circling a star known as HD 10180, about 127 light-years from Earth, in the direction of the constellation Hydrus. And just two days later, a paper appeared in Science trumpeting the discovery of a multiplanetary system circling a star called Kepler-9, 2,000 light-years away in the constellation Lyra. The latter solar system has only two or three worlds — but the space telescope that found it is so powerful that this discovery is just a hint of the other worlds and other solar systems it may discover in the next few months."

      "Both detections are scientific tours de force in different ways. In the first, scientists found the planets indirectly, by noting how HD 10180 is being tugged back and forth by a swarm of circling planets. That's how the first extrasolar planets were found in the mid-1990s, but the effect is so subtle that doing a clear analysis of the mass and orbit of even a single planet is tough. Untangling multiple, independent, overlapping sets of wobbles is excruciatingly hard." 08-10

  3. -Color of a Planet Outside of Our Solar System Detected (NBC News)
      "For the first time, astronomers have detected the color of a planet beyond our solar system: It's blue, but not because there's water on its surface. It doesn't even have a "surface." Instead, the color is thought to come from glassy grains of silicate in its choking atmosphere." 07-13

  4. -Enormous Alien Planet Discovered (NBC News)
      "An enormous alien planet — one that is 11 times more massive than Jupiter — was discovered in the most distant orbit yet found around a single parent star.”

      "The newfound exoplanet, dubbed HD 106906 b, dwarfs any planetary body in the solar system, and circles its star at a distance that is 650 times the average distance between the Earth and the sun. The existence of such a massive and distantly orbiting planet raises new questions about how these bizarre worlds are formed, the researchers said." 12-13

  5. -Potentially-Habitable Planet Found (Christian Science Monitor)
      "The quest to find Earth-like planets around other stars appears to have taken a significant step forward. Astronomers in Europe have detected a 'super Earth' orbiting a dwarf star 20.5 light-years away."

      "The planet appears to be the most Earth-like of any of the more than 200 planets yet found outside the solar system." 04-07

  6. A New Planet Found Beyond the Galaxy (
      "HIP 13044, as it's unglamorously known, has a planet whirling around it — the first planet ever found from outside the Milky Way. Aside from its extra-galactic origin, the planet itself, found with a medium-size telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, and described in a new paper in Science, isn't especially remarkable." 11-10

  7. Animation of Extrasolar Planets (
      "So he wrote up a program that would plot the planets' positions as though you were looking down on the system from above (in fact, the system is edge on to Earth, which is why we can detect the crossings)." 05-11

  8. Antimatter Space Ships (
      Describes how an antimatter space ship might produce a great deal more energy than any other source now known and even allow interstellar travel, travel to other planets from distant stars. 06-07

  9. Artist Conceptions of 8 Exoplanets (Huffington Post)
      Provides artist renderings of extrasolar planets.

  10. Astronomers Capture First Images of New Planets (CNN News)
      "The first-ever pictures of planets outside our solar system were released today in two studies."

      "According to the the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia, there have been 322 planets found outside our solar system. The latest findings bring that total to 326." 11-08

  11. Distant Planet Viewed Directly (
      "In an upcoming paper in the Astrophysical Journal, three observers confirm that they've photographed a planet orbiting a sun-like star known as 1RXS 1609, about 500 light-years, or nearly three quadrillion miles, from Earth, in the constellation Scorpius." 07-10

  12. Distant Planet-Like Object Viewed Directly, a First (
      "Astronomers have been finding planets around distant stars for more than a decade now, and the count is currently around 400. But the vast majority of these so-called exoplanets have been seen indirectly — by their gravitational effects or by the dimming caused when they pass in front of their parent stars. To really understand what a planet is like in detail, you have to see it directly, and that's incredibly hard to do with today's technology."

      "But an international team has done it." 12-09

  13. Dramatic New Evidence of a Planet in Another Solar System (The Scotsman)
      "Astronomers said there was an 'odds-on' chance of intelligent life in space after new observations produced the best evidence yet of planets circling stars outside our solar system."

      "A team led by the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC) in Edinburgh announced yesterday that they had found the dusty wake of a Saturn-like planet around one of the brightest stars in the sky."

      Professor Ian Robson said that the new tool used, with specially-cooled camera called SCUBA, 'will revolutionize our search for evidence of planetary systems.' "10-02

  14. First Exstrasolar Planet Sighted (
      "The hunt for direct images of planets outside our Solar System has bagged its strongest candidate yet."

      "Recent observations from the Hubble Space Telescope have confirmed a previous sighting made in April 2004. Astronomers say they are now 99% certain that the dim and distant blob is indeed a planet." 1-05

  15. Geoglyphs (
      "The lines at Nazca aren't the only landscape figures this region boasts. 850 miles south of Nazca is perhaps the world's largest human figure, etched into the side of Solitary Mountain. The Giant of Atacama at Cerro Unitas is an incredible 393 feet high and is surrounded by lines similar to those at Nazca." 11-05

  16. Kepler's Efforts to Discover More Planets (NBC News)
      "NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft should be able to achieve its primary mission goal regardKepler launched in March 2009 on a 3.5-year prime mission to determine how common Earth-like planets are throughout the Milky Way galaxy. That goal is likely already attainable, even if the spacecraft is unable to recover from the glitch that halted its exoplanet hunt two months ago, mission team members say.less of whether or not it can bounce back from a recent malfunction, researchers say."

      "Kepler launched in March 2009 on a 3.5-year prime mission to determine how common Earth-like planets are throughout the Milky Way galaxy. That goal is likely already attainable, even if the spacecraft is unable to recover from the glitch that halted its exoplanet hunt two months ago, mission team members say." 07-13

  17. Life Found in Very Extreme Conditions (
      "If (relatively) complex life can thrive miles below our feet, it's at least plausible that it lives in similar conditions elsewhere in the cosmos — particularly within Mars, where organisms might have retreated when the environment above grew deadly, just as the Halicephalobus percolated down below after first living on the surface. And that means the search for alien life is a lot more wide open than anyone would have imagined just a few years ago." 06-11

  18. Many Planets Found Outside Our Solar System (ABC News)
      "NASA's planet-hunting telescope is finding whole new worlds of possibilities in the search for alien life. An early report from a cosmic census indicates that relatively small planets and stable multi-planet systems are far more plentiful than previous searches showed." 02-11

  19. NASA Discovers 715 New Worlds (
      "NASA's Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system. Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system." 03-14

  20. NASA Using Old Images to Find New Planets (
      "A team of scientists from the Space Telescope Science Institute has re-analyzed old Hubble images with new software algorithms to reveal disks of dusty material around five young stars—an indirect hint that unseen planets are lurking there as well. 'We had evidence that these disks might exist,' says Rémi Soummer, the institute astronomer who led the project, 'but we had no idea about their size or structure.' " 04-14

  21. NASA Working on Spaceship Concept to Travel to the Stars (
      "Don’t expect to go Alpha Centauri-hopping any time soon, but the idea well down the road, according to a presentation delivered by White on the subject last year, would involve a spacecraft leaving Earth, traveling a given distance using conventional propulsion, stopping (relative to the Earth), enabling its “warp field,” then traveling to a point near its interstellar destination, where it would then disable the field and continue on its way using conventional propulsion methods once more."

      "Instead of taking 'decades or centuries,' White says this would allow us to visit a spot like Alpha Centauri — a little over four light years from us — in as little as 'weeks or months.' " 09-12

  22. New Planets Discovered (CNN - Space)
      Describes the discovery of 11 new planets outside of our solar system. One is in the "habitable" zone for life as we know it. 4-01

  23. New Planets Forming (Scientific American)
      "Astronomers have gotten the best view yet of a potential planet-forming disk around a young star." 8-04

  24. Oldest Planet "Mind-Boggling" (ABC News)
      "Astronomers have discovered the oldest known planet, a primeval world 12.7 billion years old that will force them to reconsider how and when planets form. The discovery raises the prospect that life may have begun far sooner than most scientists ever imagined. A leading planet-formation expert not involved in the work called the discovery mind-boggling." 7-03

  25. Plan to Visit a Nearby Star (CNet)
      "The program will be built around technology that uses light to propel a tiny spacecraft that can collect data and images and send them back to Earth. The 'nanocraft,' which can fit in the palm of your hand, will carry cameras, photon thrusters, a power supply, and navigation and communication equipment."

  26. Planet Discovered in "Life" Zone (CNN - Stenger)
      Describes planet found in another solar system that is the correct distance from its sun to support life. 5-01

  27. Planet Found Orbiting Nearby Star (
      "The new planet, designated Alpha Centauri B b (ok, not so memorable) is about the same size, and quite possibly the same composition, as Earth." 10-12

  28. Planetary Habitability (
      "Planetary habitability is the measure of an astronomical body's potential for developing and sustaining life. It may be applied both to planets and to the natural satellites of planets."

      "The only absolute requirement for life is an energy source (usually but not necessarily solar energy), but the notion of planetary habitability implies that many other geophysical, geochemical, and astrophysical criteria must be met before an astronomical body is able to support life. Given that the existence of life beyond Earth is currently unknown, planetary habitability is largely an extrapolation of Earth's conditions and the characteristics of the Sun and solar system which appear favorable to life's flourishing. Of particular interest is the set of factors that has sustained complex, multicellular animals and not merely unicellular organisms on this planet. Research and theory in this regard is a component of planetary science and the emerging discipline of astrobiology." 01-06

  29. Planetlike Body Seen Orbiting a Star (
      "Astronomers have taken optical images of a giant planetlike body orbiting near a sunlike star, making it the closest ever observed around a star through direct imaging." 1-02

  30. Planets Found - Imaginary (Walker)
      Creates a picture of new planet every day (from a computer program) to resemble one that may one day be found. Walker calls each a "Terranova," a New Earth. 8-01

  31. Scientists: Planet Like Earth Found (CNN News)
      "A team of astronomers from the University of California and the Carnegie Institute of Washington say they've found a planet like ours, 20 light years (120 trillion miles) from Earth, where the basic conditions for life are good." 09-10

  32. Six New Unusual Planets Discovered (MSNBC News)
      "Lissauer said he rated the finding as the 'biggest thing in exoplanets' since the 1995 discovery of 51 Pegasi, the first extrasolar planet detected around a sunlike star. Yale astronomer Debra Fischer, a planet-hunting pioneer who was not involved in the Kepler-11 study, agreed. 'With five low-mass planets in the system, this discovery is as momentous as 51 Peg was in 1995,' she said today during a NASA news briefing." 02-11

  33. Solar Systems Similar to Ours Found ( - Fergano)
      "European and U.S. astronomers Thursday announced the discovery of two solar systems with planets in orbits similar to our own, a finding that boosts the odds that they harbor extraterrestrial life." One orbits the star 55 Cancri, in the Cancer constellation. 6-02

  34. Starless Planet Found (
      "It’s not the first free-floating planet ever found, the scientists hasten to make clear. Astronomers have found indirect hints that many more may be roaming the galaxy, and theorists have no trouble explaining how such a thing could happen. CFBDSIR2149 might have formed originally as part of a solar system and then been sling-shotted out in a close encounter with another massive planet. Or it might have formed directly from a small collapsing cloud of gas and dust."

      "But while rogue planets like CFBDSIR2149 may be common, this one is uncommon in a very important way: it’s close to Earth, at a mere 100 to 120 light years from us. At that distance, it’s amenable to detailed study — and indeed, astronomers have already detected the signature of methane and water vapor in its atmosphere." 11-12

  35. The Blackest Planet in the Universe (
      "If you imagine the blackest thing you've ever heard of — a lump of coal, say — and then try to imagine something a whole lot blacker, you're beginning to get a sense of the planet known by the strange name of TrES-2b. Whereas the original Jupiter reflects about 50% of the sunlight that hits it, TrES-2b reflects an infinitesimal 1%. 'Actually,' says David Spiegel, a Princeton astronomer who co-authored the new study on TrES-2b's remarkable blackness that appears in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 'our best models suggest it's more like a 10th of a percent.' ”

      Also try Extrasolar Planets. 08-11


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