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The search for planets. Learn how distant worlds are being discovered: Discovering New Worlds

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15 Oct 2014 NASA's Hubble Telescope Finds Potential Kuiper Belt Targets for New Horizons Pluto Mission
Peering out to the dim, outer reaches of our solar system, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered three Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) the agency's New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit after it flies by Pluto in July 2015. The KBOs were detected through a dedicated Hubble observing program by a New Horizons search team that was awarded telescope time for this purpose.
17 Apr 2014 NASA's Kepler Telescope Discovers First Earth-Size Planet in Habitable Zone
Using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the habitable zone -- the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun.
26 Mar 2014 NASA Supported Research Helps Redefine Solar System's Edge
The solar system has a new most-distant family member. Scientists using ground based observatories have discovered an object that is believed to have the most distant orbit found beyond the known edge of our solar system. Named 2012 VP113, the observations of the object -- possibly a dwarf planet -- were obtained and analyzed with a grant from NASA. A dwarf planet is an object in orbit around the sun that is large enough to have its own gravity pull itself into a spherical, or nearly round, shape.
26 Feb 2014 NASA's Kepler Mission Announces a Planet Bonanza, 715 New Worlds
NASA's Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system. Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.
8 Jan 2014 NASA Kepler Provides Insight About Enigmatic But Ubiquitous Planets, Five New Rocky Planets
More than three-quarters of the planet candidates discovered by NASA's Kepler spacecraft have sizes ranging from that of Earth to that of Neptune, which is nearly four times as big as Earth. Such planets dominate the galactic census but are not represented in our own solar system. Astronomers don't know how they form or if they are made of rock, water or gas.
29 Jul 2013 NASA's Chandra Sees Eclipsing Planet in X-rays for First Time
For the first time since exoplanets, or planets around stars other than the sun, were discovered almost 20 years ago, X-ray observations have detected an exoplanet passing in front of its parent star. An advantageous alignment of a planet and its parent star in the system HD 189733, which is 63 light-years from Earth, enabled NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM Newton Observatory to observe a dip in X-ray intensity as the planet transited the star.
11 Jul 2013 NASA Hubble Finds a True Blue Planet
Astronomers making visible-light observations with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have deduced the actual color of a planet orbiting another star 63 light-years away. The planet is HD 189733b, one of the closest exoplanets that can be seen crossing the face of its star. Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph measured changes in the color of light from the planet before, during and after a pass behind its star. There was a small drop in light and a slight change in the color of the light; the planet was blue.
7 Jun 2013 Kepler Mission Manager Update - 503 New Planet Candidates
The Kepler spacecraft remains in its Point Rest State (PRS) and is operating well in this mode. Analysis of the Kepler data continues. Last week the team delivered 1,924 new Kepler Objects of Interest (KOIs) to the NASA Exoplanet Archive. Of the 1,924 new KOIs, 503 already have been dispositioned as planet candidates. These newly announced planet candidates bring the current count of Kepler planet candidates to 3,216. Some of these new planet candidates are small and some reside in the habitable zone of their stars, but much work remains to be done to verify these results.
31 May 2013 1,924 New Kepler Objects of Interest
At the NASA Exoplanet Archive is a majority of the Kepler Objects of Interest (KOIs) found by searching the data from Quarters 1 to 12 (May 2009 - March 2012) for transit-like signatures. ... the current delivery also includes 1,924 new KOIs.
13 May 2013 New Method of Finding Planets Scores its First Discovery
A team at Tel Aviv University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has just discovered an exoplanet using a new method that relies on Einstein's special theory of relativity. "We are looking for very subtle effects. We needed high quality measurements of stellar brightnesses, accurate to a few parts per million," said team member David Latham of the CfA. "This was only possible because of the exquisite data NASA is collecting with the Kepler spacecraft," added lead author Simchon Faigler of Tel Aviv University, Israel.
9 May 2013 Sifting Through the Atmospheres of Far-off Worlds
Gone are the days of being able to count the number of known planets on your fingers. Today, there are more than 800 confirmed exoplanets -- planets that orbit stars beyond our sun -- and more than 2,700 other candidates. What are these exotic planets made of? Unfortunately, you cannot stack them in a jar like marbles and take a closer look. Instead, researchers are coming up with advanced techniques for probing the planets' makeup.
3 May 2013 May 2013 Issue of Science is Bursting with Exoplanets
Articles in the May 2013 issue of Science include many about exoplanets!
18 Apr 2013 Kepler Discovers its Smallest Habitable Zone Planets
NASA's Kepler mission has discovered two new planetary systems that include three super-Earth-size planets in the "habitable zone," the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.
29 Mar 2013 Planet Hunters discovery: PH1b (Kepler-64b)
Last October Planet Hunters announced the discovery of PH1 -- a four star planetary system hosting a circumbinary planet (PH1b). PH1b is their first confirmed exoplanet discovery, a milestone for Planet Hunters.
20 Feb 2013 A Moon-size Line Up
NASA's Kepler mission has discovered a new planetary system that is home to the smallest planet yet found around a star like our sun, approximately 210 light-years away in the constellation Lyra.
6 Feb 2013 Kepler Data Suggest Earth-size Planets May Be Next Door
Using publicly available data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) estimate that six percent of red dwarf stars in the galaxy have Earth-size planets in the "habitable zone," the range of distances from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water. The majority of the sun's closest stellar neighbors are red dwarfs. Researchers now believe that an Earth-size planet with a moderate temperature may be just 13 light-years away.
7 Jan 2013 Kepler Finds Hundreds of New Exoplanet Candidates
Kepler mission scientists announced on January 7, 2013 the discovery of literally hundreds of new exoplanet candidates -- 461, to be exact -- orbiting distant stars within a relatively small cross-section of our galaxy, bringing the total number of potential planets awaiting confirmation to 2,740. What's more, at least 4 of these new candidates appear to be fairly Earth-sized worlds located within their stars' habitable zone, the orbital "sweet spot" where surface water could exist as a liquid.  
7 Jan 2013 A Newly Confirmed Planet and 42 Additional Planet Candidates
Planet Hunter is pleased to announce the discovery and confirmation of our second confirmed planet : PH2 b -- a Jupiter-size planet in the habitable zone of a star like the Sun -- by the Planet Hunter project.
3 Jan 2013 Billions and Billions of Planets
Look up at the night sky and you'll see stars, sure. But the sky is also filled with planets -- billions and billions of them at least. That's the conclusion of a new study by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, which provides yet more evidence that planetary systems are the cosmic norm. The team made their estimate while analyzing planets orbiting a star called Kepler-32 -- planets that are representative, they say, of the vast majority of planets in our galaxy and thus serve as a perfect case study for understanding how most of these worlds form.
19 Dec 2012 Five Planets Around Nearby Star Tau Ceti; One in Habitable Zone
 Look up in the sky tonight towards the southeast in the constellation Cetus. There's a naked-eye star named Tau Ceti that lies about 12 light-years away from Earth, and astronomers have discovered a system of at least five planets orbiting Tau Ceti, including one in the star's habitable zone.  While the recent discovery of a Earth-sized planet around the triple star system Alpha Centauri is the closest planet that has been discovered at just 4.3 light years away, this new discovery is the closest single sun-like star that we know of to host of an entire system of planets.  
14 Dec 2012 Venus Transit and Lunar Mirror Help Find Exoplanets
On 6 June 2012 Venus passed directly between the Earth and the Sun, in a so-called transit where the planet appears as a silhouette against the solar disk, something that will not happen again until 5 December 2117. A team of Italian astronomers used the opportunity to perform an unusual and challenging experiment, looking at the sunlight reflected off the Moon ('moonlight') to see how it changed during the transit. This technique could help scientists to find planets in orbit around other stars.
14 Nov 2012 Lost in Space: Rogue Planet Spotted?
Astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope have identified a body that is very probably a planet wandering through space without a parent star. This is the most exciting free-floating planet candidate so far and the closest such object to the Solar System at a distance of about 100 light-years. Its comparative proximity, and the absence of a bright star very close to it, has allowed the team to study its atmosphere in great detail. This object also gives astronomers a preview of the exoplanets that future instruments aim to image around stars other than the Sun.
7 Nov 2012 A Super-Earth in a Six-Planet System
A new super-Earth planet that may have an Earth-like climate and be just right to support life has been discovered around a nearby star by an international team of astronomers. The new super-Earth planet exists in the habitable zone of a nearby star and is part of a six-planet system. The system was previously thought to contain three planets in orbits too close to the star to support liquid water. By avoiding fake signals caused by stellar activity, the researchers have identified three new super-Earth planet candidates also in orbit.
16 Oct 2012 Planet Hunters Find Circumbinary Planet in 4-Star System
PH1 is a Neptune-size planet, with radius about 6.2 times that of Earth's with a 138 day orbit. The two parent stars have masses about 1.5 and 0.41 times that of the sun and circle each other once every 20 days. Two other stars orbit PH1's twin suns at a distance of about 1,000 astronomical units. This strange, four-star planetary system is the first confirmed world discovered as part of the Yale University-led Planet Hunters project, in which armchair astronomers work with professional scientists to find evidence of new worlds in the bountiful data collected by NASA's Kepler space telescope.
16 Oct 2012 Alpha Centauri Has a Planet
Astronomers have announced they have found a planet orbiting one of the stars making up the most famous star in the sky: Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our own! At 4.3 light years distant, this is far and away the closest exoplanet known.
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Last Updated: 12 Sep 2014