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New Definition Could Make the Moon a Planet

Astronomer's mathematical formula could help in identifying exoplanets

(Newser) - You'll remember the International Astronomical Union's redefinition of a planet in 2006 as the move that demoted Pluto to a mere dwarf planet. But scientists recall the change for another reason: The new classification is incredibly vague. Basically, any nearly round celestial body that orbits the sun and... More »

Planet Discovered in 2012 Was Really a 'Ghost'

Alpha Centauri Bb was never there, astronomers say

(Newser) - When an Earth-sized planet was detected in the closest star system to us in 2012, excited astronomers suggested dropping everything and sending a probe. That would have been a mistake, because researchers have now determined that Alpha Centauri Bb does not exist. Astronomers—including the team that "discovered" the... More »

NASA Finds Earth's 'Older Cousin'

Kepler-452b has NASA scientists excited

(Newser) - Kepler-438b , move over for Kepler-452b. The latter is the name of a planet newly discovered by the Kepler space telescope that is now the most Earth-like one NASA has found so far, reports the BBC . It's about one and a half times the size of Earth , and orbits... More »

This 15-Year-Old Intern Found Something 'Amazing'

It took 2 years to confirm that WASP-142b is indeed a planet

(Newser) - British high school student Tom Wagg already has a line on his resume most of us can only dream of. While interning at Keele University two years ago, the then-15-year-old found what looked to be a planet; telescopes in Chile were used to take a deeper look, and now astronomers... More »

Jupiter Made Our Solar System Weird

Wandering planet wiped out early super-Earths

(Newser) - As astronomers get a better look at the planets circling other stars, it's becoming increasingly apparent that our solar system is pretty strange—and Jupiter seems to be the reason why. Most other solar systems appear to have at least one large planet orbiting very close to the star,... More »

Giant Exoplanet's Rings a 'Super Saturn'

Impressive 30-ring system is 200 times larger than Saturn

(Newser) - In 2012, scientists discovered a giant exoplanet (one that orbits a star other than our sun) with a ring system so impressive it eclipses its own host star. Now, thanks to a recent eclipse where planet J1407b lined up in front of host star J1407, scientists at the University of... More »

Newly Spotted Planet Is Most Earth-Like Yet

Kepler-438b just one of several exciting finds

(Newser) - If you're sick of Earth and have a spacecraft capable of traveling hundreds of light-years, astronomers have spotted the most promising destination yet. Kepler-438b is a newly-confirmed potential "Earth twin" detected by the Kepler Space Telescope, the BBC reports, one of eight confirmed new exoplanets. The planet, about... More »

Kepler 'Rises From the Ashes,' Finds a 'Super-Earth'

Unlivable new planet about 2.5 times the size of Earth discovered during K2 mission

(Newser) - The Kepler spacecraft has had its shares of ups and downs since its 2009 launch. The downs have included a 2013 mechanical failure that left Kepler supposedly "beyond repair" . The ups have included a "resourceful strategy" that made use of pressure from sunlight to allow Kepler to be... More »

NASA Hits 715-Planet 'Jackpot'

Kepler data massively boosts number of known worlds

(Newser) - NASA says it has almost doubled the number of planets known to humanity with a "bonanza" uncovered by its planet-hunting Kepler telescope. The 715 new planets orbit 305 stars in multi-planet systems like our own, and 94% of them are smaller than Neptune. NASA says it has found... More »

Hubble Spots Clouds on Faraway Planets

2 planets bear no resemblance to anything in our solar system

(Newser) - We see clouds pretty much every time we look up, but the Hubble Space Telescope spotted an exciting discovery for the science world—those white, puffy-looking things exist on planets outside of our own solar system. Two teams discovered thick layers of high-altitude clouds in the atmospheres of two exoplanets.... More »

Astronomers May Have Found a Milestone Moon

It could be the first 'exomoon' detected around an exoplanet

(Newser) - Astronomers have found plenty of Earth-like planets out there in deep space, but so far they haven't found a moon orbiting one of them. Until now, maybe. Scientists might have detected one in orbit around a planet in the constellation Sagittarius, reports Nature . If so, it's the first... More »

Earth-like Planet Discovered, but It's Hotter Than...

...Hell, at less than a million miles from its sun

(Newser) - Astronomers have discovered a planet where a certain red guy with horns could make himself right at home. It's a planet much like our own Earth—about the same size, with the same mixture of rock and iron, and it orbits a star like our sun—except that Kepler... More »

New Asteroid Points to Habitable Exoplanets

Scientists spot water-rich asteroid 170 light-years from Earth

(Newser) - Scientists have spotted the remains of a water-rich asteroid, orbiting a dying star about 170 light-years from Earth. It's more than a bit of space waste—the find suggests that this far-off solar system may have once had planets capable of supporting life, the LA Times reports. "The... More »

Planet-Hunting Kepler Craft Has Big Setback

Malfunction threatens ability to look for Earth-like bodies

(Newser) - It seems like NASA is announcing the discovery of a new Earth-like planet every few weeks—like so , and so , and so —but those days might be over for a long while. Not that there aren't more discoveries to make, it's just that the spacecraft responsible for... More »

Kepler Finds Most Earth-Like Planet Yet

Introducing Kepler 62f, about 1.2K light years away

(Newser) - The Kepler telescope is certainly earning its keep. It has found even more Earth-like planets, NASA announced today, and one is being described as the most Earth-like yet. The news of Kepler-62f comes as part of the discovery of three exoplanets that could possibly support life, explains Space.com . Kepler-62f... More »

Scientists Spot Smallest Planet Ever Seen

Exoplanet Kepler-37b is the size of our moon

(Newser) - Scientists have discovered the smallest known planet, just a third of the size of the Earth. Mercury, the smallest in our solar system, is two-fifths Earth's size, the AP notes; the new discovery, Kepler-37b, is a far-off exoplanet. "This research shows for the first time that other stellar... More »

Earth-Like Planet Spotted

KOI 172.02 orbits star like our sun

(Newser) - Less than two weeks after astronomers predicted they would find an Earth-like planet some time in 2013, the feat may have already been accomplished. Scientists this week announced at the 221st meeting of American Astronomical Society that the Kepler telescope has found a "super-Earth" whose radius is 1.5... More »

Prediction: We'll Discover 1st 'Earth Twin' in 2013

With 50B planets in Milky Way, astronomers think big discovery looms

(Newser) - With more than 800 exoplanets identified since 1995, many astronomers are predicting that 2013 will be the year that the first truly Earth-like planet is spotted, reports Space . Scientists have gotten ever closer to finding an alien Earth in recent years, identifying several in the right temperature range and others... More »

New 'Super-Earth' Spotted

It's seven times the size of our planet, and just 42 light years away

(Newser) - Scientists have found another planet to add to the growing list of potential homes for life. Researchers recently spotted three new planets circling around HD 40307, just 42 light years from Earth, the BBC reports, and one of them is just far enough from the star that it could harbor... More »

Planet Spotted in Solar System Next-Door

But Earth-sized Alpha Centauri planet is too hot for life

(Newser) - Excited astronomers have spotted an Earth-sized planet as close as it is possible to find one outside our solar system. The rocky planet discovered by a European team circles one of the three stars in the Alpha Centauri system, the sun's nearest neighbor at just 4.4 light years... More »

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