Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Smallest Exoplanet Yet

The count of planets identified around other stars has passed 500, and NASA's Kepler spacecraft has found the smallest yet, only 1.4 times earth's diameter and 4.6 times its mass. But Kepler 10-b orbits very close to its star and the surface temperature is likely around 2500 degrees.

The astronomers who announced the discovery seem to be saying that pinning down this planet's characteristics was very difficult and depended on its star being extremely stable. I wonder if this means that Kepler's stated goal, to find planets like earth, will turn out to be elusive.

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