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Beyond Earthly Skies

A Tiny Planet Called Kepler-37b

21 Feb 2013, 09:19 UTC
A Tiny Planet Called Kepler-37b
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With an ever increasing number of small exoplanets being discovered, the record holder for the smallest known exoplanet gets replaced fairly quickly. Recently, NASA’s Kepler mission has found a planetary system that is home to the smallest planet yet discovered around a Sun-like star. The discovery was published in Nature in a paper titled “A sub-Mercury-sized Exoplanet”. This tiny planet is named Kepler-37b and it belongs to a planetary system consisting of two other known planets - Kepler-37c and Kepler-37d. Kepler is a space telescope which finds planets by measuring tiny dips in a star’s brightness when a planet happens to pass in front of the star. When the planet Kepler-37b transits in front of its host star, it causes the star’s brightness to dim by a mere 20 parts-per-million. This gives Kepler-37b an estimated diameter of 3850 kilometres, making it smaller than Mercury (4880 km diameter) and only barely larger than the Moon (3475 km diameter).Figure: The line up compares artist's concepts of the planets in the Kepler-37 system to the moon and planets in the solar system. The smallest planet, Kepler-37b, is slightly larger than our moon, measuring about one-third the size of Earth. Kepler-37c, the second planet, ...

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