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

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