Tag Archive for 'external'

Kepler discovers the first extrasolar rocky planet!

Artist's impression of Kepler 10-b (Credit: NASA/Kepler Mission/Dana Berry)

Full story at http://kepler.nasa.gov/news/nasakeplernews/index.cfm?FuseAction=ShowNews&NewsID=94
Star and planet stats at: http://kepler.nasa.gov/Mission/discoveries/kepler10b/ (Kepler ID is 11904151)
Discovery paper at: http://kepler.nasa.gov/files/mws/Batalha_N_Kepler-10b.pdf

Big news today – Kepler has discovered its first extrasolar rocky planet, around a sun-like star about 564 lightyears away! Full stats, including the transit lightcurve can be found here. Interestingly the star may be very old – the age estimate is around 11.9 billion years – about as old as stars can get in our galaxy!

Continue reading ‘Kepler discovers the first extrasolar rocky planet!’

Planethunters: Want to find an extrasolar planet? Now you can!

Sample transit chart from planethunters.org (Simulated planet)

Planet Hunters is a brand new “citizen science” site, like Galaxy Zoo (where participants identify galaxies from images) and Moon Zoo (where participants identify and catalogue craters on the moon) – it literally just went online a few hours ago. This time, your task (should you choose to accept it!) is to look through Kepler science data looking for tell-tale dips in brightness caused by planets transiting across the face of the target stars! (the Kepler spacecraft basically stares at a fixed point in the sky containing hundreds of thousands of stars, and it monitors the brightness of all of them, looking out for dips caused by transiting planets).

It does take a while to get used to the brightness graphs, but you get the hang of it eventually. I’ve already found a couple of known transiting planets (it tells you whether it’s a “Kepler Favourite” or not, which presumably means it’s a known planetary system), correctly identified a simulated planet around a giant star (they throw some simulated data in occasionally to check that you’re finding things properly!).

There might still be a few bugs and issues in the discussion forums, but they’re rapidly getting them sorted out. It’s a brillianty idea and it’s all very exciting – I’ve had a look at 50 systems so far and found a few interesting ones (I’ve collected them here, and I’ll be adding more as time goes on). They also have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed to follow as well!

So here’s a perfect opportunity to join in and contribute to scientific discovery – and who knows, you might even find a planet! Head over to http://www.planethunters.org now and start looking! 🙂

Emily’s Asteroids and Comets montage

I’m working on another science post of my own, but in the meantime I thought I’d share this rather awesome montage that Emily Lakdawalla compiled over at the Planetary Society Blog, which is well worth following if you’re into solar system exploration. It shows all the asteroids and comets that have been visited by spacecraft as of November 2010, including Comet Hartley 2. The really nice thing is that it shows them all at the same scale, so you can see the differences that size makes to thinks like crater size (I think Mathilde is roughly the size of Greater London).

There’s a much larger version of the image available on the Planetary Society page that’s definitely worth checking out too, that shows the little ones in more detail – though be warned, the image is huge!

Comets and Asteroids, by Emily Lakdawalla

Credits: Montage by Emily Lakdawalla. Ida, Dactyl, Braille, Annefrank, Gaspra, Borrelly: NASA / JPL / Ted Stryk. Steins: ESA / OSIRIS team. Eros: NASA / JHUAPL. Itokawa: ISAS / JAXA / Emily Lakdawalla. Mathilde: NASA / JHUAPL / Ted Stryk. Lutetia: ESA / OSIRIS team / Emily Lakdawalla. Halley: Russian Academy of Sciences / Ted Stryk. Tempel 1, Hartley 2: NASA / JPL / UMD. Wild 2: NASA / JPL.

(if you want to comment on it, go over to the Planetary Society Blog and tell Emily! 🙂 )