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

A New Equation Reveals Our Exact Odds of Finding Alien Life

It’s been over half a century since Frank Drake developed an equation to estimate the probability of finding intelligent life in our galaxy. We’ve learned a lot since then, prompting an astrophysicist from MIT to come up with her own take on the equation. Here’s how the new formula works — and how it could help in the… » 6/21/13 11:00am 6/21/13 11:00am

Astronomers say there are at least 17 billion Earth-sized planets in…

Back in June of last year, astronomers working with the Kepler space telescope made the bold proclamation that all stars have planets. While this is all fine-and-well (if not intuitively obvious), what was not known is how many Earth-sized planets are out there. But now, a new analysis of Kepler data may be providing… » 1/08/13 9:00am 1/08/13 9:00am