NASA discovers first rocky planet outside solar system

A NASA telescope has found the smallest planet outside our solar system and it is rocky just like Earth.

NASA discovers first rocky planet outside solar system

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Monday announced that its Kepler mission discovered its first rocky planet.

The planet was named Kepler-10b and it is 1.4 times the size of the Earth. It is the smallest planet ever discovered outside our solar system and is a result of more than 8 months of investigating.

"All of Kepler's best capabilities have converged to yield the first solid evidence of a rocky planet orbiting a star other than our sun," said Natalie Batalha, Kepler's deputy science team lead at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field.

The Kepler team analyzed data gathered by the spacecraft from May 2009 to early January 2010. It is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone.

The habitable zone is the area in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the planet's surface. Kepler's ultra-precise photometer measures the tiny decrease in a star's brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it.

The size of the planet can be measured from the periodic dips in brightness. The distance between the planet and the star is calculated by the time between successive dips as the planet orbits the star.

The science team determined that Kepler-10b is more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury as it orbits once every 0.84 day. The exoplanet is not located in an habitable zone.

Kepler-10 was the first star identified that could potentially harbor a small transiting planet. It was the subject of ground-based observations with the W.M. Keck Observatory 10-meter telescope in Hawaii.

After that the science team was able to discover Kepler-10b and later confirmed that it was a planet through measuring tiny changes in the star's spectrum, called Doppler shifts.

"The discovery of Kepler 10-b is a significant milestone in the search for planets similar to our own," said Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist. "Although this planet is not in the habitable zone, the exciting find showcases the kinds of discoveries made possible by the mission and the promise of many more to come."


Last Mod: 11 Ocak 2011, 11:20
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