Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kepler's Planets

NASA just released a huge pile of data from the Kepler satellite, which is designed to search for extra-solar planets. These data include 312 candidates for planets or planetary systems.

More intriguing is word that the mission scientists have held onto data for 400 other stars where they suspect smaller planets. One of Kepler's missions is to find planets as small as the earth, and distant enough from their stars to be candidates for life. (The bigger and closer to their stars planets are, the easier they are to find.) Mission scientists are following up themselves on several good candidates; obviously they hope to be the ones who announce the first discovery of an earth-like planet around another star.

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