Taxonomy term


Earth-like exoplanet shows signs of supporting life

A recently discovered exoplanet 40 light-years from Earth appears to orbit its home star at a distance suggesting it could support liquid water. The planet, dubbed LHS 1140b and reported in a study in Nature, is located in the constellation Cetus and orbits a red dwarf star. The rocky planet is 10 times closer to its star than Earth is to the sun, but the red dwarf only puts out a fraction of the light that the sun does, meaning LHS 1140b lies in the middle of the habitable zone around the star.

24 Jul 2017

'Hot Jupiter' atmospheres come into focus

Imagine the planetary lovechild of Jupiter and Mercury — but even larger than the former (usually) and much closer to the sun than the latter — and a picture will emerge of so-called “hot Jupiters,” a class of huge, sizzling exoplanets that typically take just a few Earth days to orbit their parent stars. Not much is known about these mysterious worlds, only recognized since the mid-1990s, but new research is helping improve our understanding.

06 May 2016

Mass measured for smallest exoplanet yet

By the late 19th century, astronomers had calculated correctly that Mars — about half the diameter of Earth — holds roughly one-tenth the mass of Earth, whereas its density is about 71 percent that of our planet. These fundamental planetary traits have also long been known for Mercury and Venus. But measuring the masses and densities of the many roughly Earth-sized exoplanets discovered lately — which, to space telescopes, appear as mere specks as they pass in front of, or transit, their home stars — has proved challenging.

22 Mar 2016

Comment: Exoplanets: Life on the Terminator

New missions are searching for potentially life-bearing exoplanets around small, cool, red dwarf stars. On many of these exoplanets, the habitable zone lies on the line between sunlight and shadow, which, ironically, is called “the terminator.” Would life be able to exist in the terminator zones?

10 Sep 2015

Earth-like atmosphere enough to set some exoplanets spinning

Earth is “Exhibit A” in showing that planetary rotation — which moderates global climate, keeps a lot of water in liquid form and generally makes the place more livable — is a plus when it comes to sustaining life. But scientists have thought that many of the rocky, Earth-like exoplanets discovered recently, which might otherwise be considered potentially hospitable to life, aren’t so fortunate. On these unlucky worlds, unable to rotate because they’re held too tightly by their parent stars’ gravity, one half of the planet is perpetually roasted by stellar radiation while the other is left frigid and dark. Now, however, a new study suggests that a little atmosphere can go a long way toward helping exoplanets rotate.

22 Aug 2015

Exoplanets could have long-lived oceans

At last count, the Kepler spacecraft had identified more than 1,000 confirmed exoplanets in the Milky Way Galaxy. Some of these bodies orbit their parent stars in the so-called habitable zone, where liquid water, and thus, life, could survive. But scientists say favorable surface temperatures may not be enough to foster life. Exoplanets also need to generate and maintain liquid water at the surface, raising the question: Do exoplanets have stable oceans?

12 Jun 2015

Unprecedented low water-vapor levels detected on exoplanets

In a recent study, a team of astronomers found that the atmospheres of Jupiter-sized planets located outside of the solar system are much drier than predicted. The discovery has raised questions about the commonly held understanding of the processes involved in planet formation.

13 Aug 2014

In or Out? Has Voyager left the solar system?

San Francisco - There is a possibility that Voyager, the U.S. spacecraft launched in 1977, which is thought to have left the heliosphere and entered interstellar space last year, could still be "inside," said Ed Stone, Voyager project chief scientist, today at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

09 Dec 2013

Hot Earth orbits closest star system

A hot Earth-sized planet circles Alpha Centauri, the sun's nearest stellar neighbor, a team of astronomers led by Xavier Dumusque of the University of Geneva reports this week in Nature. They detected the tiny gravitational tug this world exerts on its star.

16 Oct 2012

Exoplanet forecast: Quartz with a chance of feldspar

Next time you’re unhappy with the weather, be glad it’s not raining rocks. That seems to happen on CoRoT-7b, a hot, Earth-like planet about 500 light-years away from us. A new modeling study suggests that the exoplanet’s atmosphere is filled with the chemical components of rock, such as oxygen, sodium and silicon monoxide, and whenever these gases condense into clouds, rocky rain likely hammers down onto CoRoT-7b’s sweltering surface.

11 Jan 2010