Jupiter May Have Destroyed The Solar System's First Planets

It is becoming increasingly obvious that our Solar System — with its inner collection of small rocky planets and an outer region buffeted by gas planets — is quite uncommon. According to a remarkable new study, the reason may have to do with Jupiter and an ancient migratory journey that kickstarted the destruction of… » 3/24/15 8:00am Tuesday 8:00am

Freakishly Old System Of Planets Hint At Ancient Alien Civilizations

Kepler scientists have discovered the oldest known system of rocky, Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way. This suggests that terrestrial planets have appeared throughout most of the Universe's 13.8 billion year history — a potential indication of just how ancient some extraterrestrial civilizations could be. » 1/27/15 8:00am 1/27/15 8:00am

Whoa–Water Ice Clouds Suspected In Brown Dwarf Beyond The Solar System

What are planetary atmospheres made of? Figuring out the answer to that question is a big step on the road to learning about habitability, assuming that life tends to flourish in atmospheres like our own. » 9/12/14 8:40am 9/12/14 8:40am

Newly Announced Super-Earth May Be The Closest Exoplanet Discovered Yet

Gliese15Ab is a newly discovered planet roughly five times the mass of Earth. Researchers aren't sure what the planet's atmosphere is like, and it's close enough to its parent star to heat it past the boiling point of water. But the most interesting thing about Gliese 15Ab isn't how close it is to its star. It's how… » 8/29/14 9:45am 8/29/14 9:45am

A Gorgeous Visualization Of Kepler's Discoveries

This visualization, created by UC Berkeley astronomer Alex Parker, is one of the most beautiful representation of alien worlds we've ever seen. » 6/14/14 9:07pm 6/14/14 9:07pm

Astronomers Discover the "Mega Earth," an Entirely New Type of Planet

Meet the "Mega Earth." Described today by astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, this ancient rocky world weighs 17 times as much as Earth — which is a big surprise considering that rocky, solid planets aren't supposed to get that huge. » 6/02/14 11:14am 6/02/14 11:14am

Exoplanets Close to Earth's Size Are Surprisingly Common

A recently-finished study of Kepler data is providing a new glimpse into the Milky Way's exoplanetary composition. Planets about one to four times the size of Earth appear to be typical around Sun-like stars. But researchers say we don't know yet whether they have the potential to harbour life. » 5/27/14 12:08pm 5/27/14 12:08pm

Soar Through A Swarm of Every Exoplanet Discovered To Date

Tom Hands, a second-year PhD Student in the Theoretical Astrophysics group at the University of Leicester, created this visualization of known exoplanets with data from the Open Exoplanet Catalogue. » 5/01/14 8:00pm 5/01/14 8:00pm

Astronomers Have Found the First Earth-Sized, Habitable Zone Planet

Scientists today announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a faraway planet that's perhaps the most Earth-like yet discovered. It's the same size as our home world, and at the right distance from its parent star to have liquid water. So, have we at last discovered Earth 2? » 4/17/14 12:05pm 4/17/14 12:05pm

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

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

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

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

All the planets discovered by Kepler to date

On Monday, NASA's Kepler mission added 833 worlds to its growing list of candidate planets, bringing the total tally to 3,538. Now, two recently released visualizations depict every. Single. One of them. » 11/06/13 6:40am 11/06/13 6:40am

Astronomers say this Super Earth could have oceans of water

At just 40 light years from Earth, Gliese 1214b is one of the nearest Super-Earths we've discovered in our search for planets beyond the solar system. Now, a team of Japanese researchers say it could well be an "ocean world," abundant in good old H2O. » 9/05/13 1:08pm 9/05/13 1:08pm

NASA says Kepler isn't quite dead yet

According to NASA, the ailing Kepler Space Telescope is officially beyond repair, and is hereby relieved of its planet-hunting duties. But the Agency isn't giving up entirely. The question now turns to how the prolific spacecraft might be put to new use, and NASA is open to suggestions. » 8/16/13 1:00pm 8/16/13 1:00pm

This could be the lightest alien planet ever captured on camera

We’ve found hundreds of planets outside the solar system, but taking a picture of one is still something quite special. » 6/03/13 7:20am 6/03/13 7:20am

The number of planets in our galaxy alone is downright staggering

Caltech astronomer John Johnson, co-author of a newly published study on the formation of planetary systems, calls the distribution of planets in our galaxy "mind-boggling." His team's are the latest in a string of predictions that pin the number of planets in the Milky Way at upwards of 100-billion. And these are … » 1/04/13 12:59pm 1/04/13 12:59pm

Astronomers may have just discovered the first known free-floating…

You'll notice there's no parent star in this concept art of recently discovered (and unsexily named) CFBDSIRJ2149. That's not a mistake. In fact, it was a very conscious decision on the part of the artist. Because CFBDSIRJ2149 has gone rogue. It's homeless. A wandering planet, it orbits no star — which could well make… » 11/14/12 3:30pm 11/14/12 3:30pm