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Kepler mission discovers six planet system

4 Feb 2011, 15:47 UTC
Kepler mission discovers six planet system
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On Wednesday NASA’s Kepler mission scientists announced the discovery of a system of six planets orbiting a star. Lowell astronomer Ted Dunham, a Co-Investigator on the mission and now serving as Science Team Lead said that the system is interesting because “two of its six planets are strongly interacting, causing their transit times to shift around. Furthermore, three of the others are also interacting with each other, causing a more complicated version of the same thing. This is in fact how we are certain that these are real planets and not some other kind of astrophysical system.”
The Kepler spacecraft was launched into orbit in March 2009. Its purpose is to search for habitable planets and its instrumentation is sensitive enough that it can find earth-sized planets. With the results released so far, over 1200 planet candidates have been identified. Though many still need confirmation through follow up work, most will turn out to be planets.
Dr. Dunham, who has been involved with Kepler since its preliminary stages, explained that the thrill of “working on a mission of discovery like Kepler is that you really don’t know what you will find. The overall results from the first four months ...

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