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Kate Follette

Big Week for Exoplanets!

20 Sep 2011, 16:48 UTC
Big Week for Exoplanets!
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Last week several exciting new discoveries were made in the field of Extrasolar Planets (planets outside our own solar system – we will do a whole unit on these later in the semester). They include:
The very first confirmed “circumbinary” planet, which means a planet that is in a system with not just one star, but two! The planet lines up perfectly with Earth and its two “suns” so that it passes right across their faces from our point of view, blocking a very small amount of the total light coming from the star behind each time it does. You can read more about this planet, discovered with the NASA Kepler satellite, here.
50 new exoplanets discovered at the European Southern Observatory, including 16 new “Super-Earths”. In our solar system, we have no planets that are intermediary in mass between the Earth and Neptune, which has roughly 17 times the mass of the Earth, but modern astronomers are finding tons of planets that have masses in between the Earth and Neptune, for which we don’t have any solar system analogs. Are these scaled-up versions of Earth-like terrestrial planets or scaled-down versions of “Ice Giants” like Neptune and Uranus? Nobody knows! ...

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