Kepler's Latest Exoplanet Hoard, Graphed

Here's some impressive planetary perspective: Last Wednesday, NASA's Kepler mission announced the discovery of 715 newly confirmed exoplanets, nearly doubling the total number of verified planets beyond our solar system. This animated graph, courtesy of NASA, helps put that discovery into context. » 3/02/14 1:00pm 3/02/14 1:00pm

NASA Confirms the Existence of 715 New Exoplanets

Using a new verification technique, Kepler scientists have confirmed the existence of 715 new exoplanets — four of which are located within their star's habitable zone. It's the single largest windfall of new confirmations at any one time. » 2/26/14 12:10pm 2/26/14 12:10pm

The Kepler telescope has changed how we see ourselves in the Universe

Twenty years ago, we didn't know if there were any planets orbiting stars other than our own. Today, it's estimated that each of the roughly 100-billion stars in our galaxy has, on average, 1.6 planets orbiting around it, as this video from astronomers and science-communicators Tony Darnell and Scott Lewis explains. » 2/21/14 8:40am 2/21/14 8:40am

The Worst Blunders People Make in Inventing Fictional Alien Worlds

We love stories that take us to alien planets and let us explore whole new environments. But not every alien planet is totally realistic, especially given how much we've learned about exoplanets lately. So we asked six experts to tell us the biggest mistakes they see in fictional habitable worlds — and here's what they … » 2/20/14 12:20pm 2/20/14 12:20pm

These official exoplanet artworks are the next best thing to visiting

Chances are, none of us will live long enough to travel to a planet in another star system. But at least, we can gaze upon dozens of exoplanets right now — thanks to official artworks created by NASA and some of the world's greatest high-tech observatories. Check out our favorite official exoplanet art below. » 2/11/14 3:00pm 2/11/14 3:00pm

New Model Shows Exoplanets May Have Oceans and Continents

A new exoplanet model developed by Nicolas B. Cowan of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics and Dorian Abbot of the University of Chicago, has shown that some "super-earths" may resemble our planet a lot more than previously thought. According to the model, these planets may have… » 1/13/14 2:10pm 1/13/14 2:10pm

Astronomers may have just discovered a new class of planets

Located nearly 500 light-years away, ROXs 42Bb is a newly discovered object that astronomers are struggling to define — a unique celestial body that's challenging conventional notions about how planets and stars form. » 1/09/14 2:40pm 1/09/14 2:40pm

The Objects in Space That We Really, Really Can't Explain

Forget UFOs — there are a lot of objects and events in space that are identified, but still completely incomprehensible. From planets in our solar system, to inexplicable energy bursts from across the universe, here are some of the enduring mysteries of the space and time we call home. » 1/02/14 1:40pm 1/02/14 1:40pm

We Have the First Weather Forecast for a Super-Earth

Our galaxy is filled with massive planets known as super-Earths. But what these planets are like has been anyone's guess. Now, for the first time, astronomers have determined that a super-Earth 42 light years away is incredibly cloudy – and that could affect our search for life on these potentially habitable worlds. » 1/01/14 7:30am 1/01/14 7:30am

Astronomers May Have Just Discovered the First Exomoon

It may not look anything like Avatar's Pandora or Jedi's Endor, but if verified, it could be the first moon ever discovered outside our solar system. Located 1,800 light years away, it's a large moon orbiting a planet four times the size of Jupiter. But strangely, the duo isn't even remotely close to a star. » 12/19/13 1:20pm 12/19/13 1:20pm

Congress Just Held a Remarkable Two-Hour Hearing on Aliens

In a refreshingly pro-science move, the House Science Committee set aside two hours yesterday to discuss the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life. The ensuing conversation was fascinating, but at times infuriating, with the experts discussing everything from alien biosignatures to the possibility that we're being… » 12/05/13 8:00am 12/05/13 8:00am

How can we possibly guess what an exoplanet's atmosphere is like?

The transit-method of exoplanet-detection is pretty straightforward, conceptually: First you find a distant star. If the light from it dims, it could be due to a planet in its orbit that has passed between it and your telescope. But how do scientists determine how big these distant planets are, what they're made of,… » 12/04/13 1:40pm 12/04/13 1:40pm

Earth's galactic neighborhood sure is crowded

Via XKCD comes this lovely chart of Earth's newly-discovered exoplanetary neighbors. Extrapolated from the latest batch of Kepler data, the diagram depicts the number and sizes of planets thought to exist in the habitable zones of stars within 60 light years of Earth. Is it just me, or does it feel a little cramped in… » 12/03/13 7:20am 12/03/13 7:20am

Hell Yes: NASA Aims to Revive Kepler Mission with Clever Plan

The Kepler telescope was relieved of planet-hunting duties back in August, when researchers determined that failed alignment hardware, necessary for the spacecraft's proper function, was beyond saving. At the time, NASA said it was open to ideas on how the otherwise functional spacecraft might be put to new use. Now,… » 11/27/13 7:40am 11/27/13 7:40am

Two Billion Reasons Why We're About to Find Earth 2

Planet-hunting scientists announced today that 22% of sunlike stars in the Milky Way are orbited by potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds. This remarkable finding indicates that there may be as many as two billion planets in our galaxy suitable for life — and that the nearest such planet may be only 12 light-years… » 11/04/13 1:42pm 11/04/13 1:42pm