Thursday, September 17, 2009

Move over Kepler, Rocky Earth-like Exoplanet Discovered

News just in indicates the discovery of the first rocky planet outside of our own solar system. It is unlikely enough to harbor life. So much so that we may as well say, "It has no life". The temperature range is something like 3200 degrees F to minus 320 degrees. It is very close to its home star with a locked rotation (like our moon)and a year on this planet would be less than a day on Earth.

Let me define "it". Scientists have named this planet CoRoT-7b. Not so colorful but nomenclature is everything. It's about 5 times the mass of Earth and about twice the diameter. And it is approximately 500 light years away. Earthlike may be a misleading term, but it is significantly different than al the hot Jupiter type exoplanets that have been discovered thus far. As one scientist noted it may be more like Dante's Inferno. Still a notable discovery.

And while I mention "Move Over Kepler" I guess I just expected Kepler to be the mission that discovered such a planet. But this bodes really well for that mission because now we know of at least one planet that is solid enough to tread on. Kepler is looking for similar rocky Earthlike planets as well. But the difference being that Kepler is looking for planets in the habitable zones around stars. The habitable zone is an area where water would be present in liquid form. Kepler will keep it's "eyes" on a large group of stars for the next three years in order to do so. In the meantime, this discovery is very exciting and encouraging. Thats is, if you care about worlds that might be inhabited outside of our own humble planet.

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