Planet Smashing Discoveries

(hat tip from Universe Today for everything below)

This is an exciting time for planetary discoveries. Not only has the Kepler mission been launched, a whole batch of super Earths to neptune planets are being discovered. That is a far cry from a few years ago, when most planets that were being discovered were giant sized gas planets that were the likes of Saturn and Jupiter. Many of them were found extremely close to their star, closer than Mercury is to the sun. In a way, giant planet discoveries are still the case, but smaller and smaller planets are becoming easier to discover.

Take the case of these two star system discoveriesz: one by ESO with at least 5 planets, and at most 7, most of them Neptune sized. The smallest planet could possibly be 1.4 times the mass of the Earth. The one by Kepler, by using a system in which it detects the dimming of a star by the planets orbiting in front of it, discovered a system of two Saturn sized planets and one possible 1.5 Earth mass planet. At this rate, an Earth sized planet discovery is possible within a few years, although note, both super Earths are not confirmed yet. But still, one can hope.

You know what the most unfortunate aspect of this is, though? The distance in space is so large that not even a space probe could be sent in those places to investigate and snap pictures (my favorite part of a planetary survey). Even if it were possible, it would take hundreds, if not, thousands of years for the probe to get there, and send back the data. Oh, and remember, depending on which stars you are talking about, it takes light around decades to centuries to reach the Earth from those places. Light is too slow, darn it!

If you want to keep up with the planet discoveries, you should get this iphone exoplanet catalogue app. Otherwise, you might go to the next best thing, which is this catalogue, by the same creator of the app.


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