International Business Times UK
Nasa's distant planets that may be home to alien life
July 25, 2015 15:13 BST
An artist's impression shows a unique type of exoplanet discovered with the Hubble Space Telescope. The planet is so close it to its star that it completes an orbit in 10.5 hours. The planet is only 750,000 miles from the star, or 1/130th the distance between Earth and the Sun. The Jupiter-sized planet orbits an unnamed red dwarf star that lies in the direction of the Galactic Centre. The exact stellar distance is unknown.
Astronomers searching the skies for distant planets found two Saturn-sized worlds orbiting distant suns, the smallest planets found thus far outside our solar system. The discovery boosted the likelihood that even smaller planets – perhaps the size of Earth – exist elsewhere in the universe, Professor Steve Vogt of the University of California-Santa Cruz said. This artists concept shows a view of the discovered planet orbiting 79 Ceti.
Scientists using Nasa's Spitzer Space Telescope observed a fledgling solar system like the one depicted in this artist's concept, finding deep within it enough water vapor to fill all the oceans on Earth five times. The scientists peered at an embryonic star called IRAS 4B located in our Milky Way galaxy about 1,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Perseus. A light year is about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion km): the distance light travels in one Earth year. They believe they are seeing for the first time how water, considered a necessary ingredient for life, begins to make its way to newly forming planets.
A handout photo from the European Space Agency released December 10, 2008 shows an artist's impression of the Jupiter-size extrasolar planet, HD 189733b, being eclipsed by its parent star. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have measured carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the planet's atmosphere. The planet is a 'hot Jupiter', so close to its parent star that it completes an orbit in only 2.2 days. This type of observation is best carried out when the planet's orbit takes it behind the star (as seen from Earth), allowing for an opportunity to subtract the light of the star alone (when the planet is hidden behind it) from that of the star and planet together before an eclipse. This allows astronomers to isolate the infrared emission of the planet and carry out spectroscopic observations that chemically analyse the dayside atmosphere.
Reuters/ESA/Nasa/M Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble)/STScI
This image from Nasa shows an artist's concept of the circumbinary planet Kepler-16b – the first planet known to definitively orbit two stars. The cold planet, with its gaseous surface, is not thought to be habitable. The largest of the two stars, a K dwarf, is about 69% the mass of our sun, and the smallest, a red dwarf, is about 20% the sun's mass. These star pairs are called eclipsing binaries.
An artist's illustration of Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star, is seen in this undated handout picture released by Nasa, on 5 December 2011. Kepler-22b, the most Earth-like planet ever discovered is circling a star 600 light years away, a key finding in an ongoing quest to learn if life exists beyond Earth, scientists said on Monday. Kepler-22b joins a list of more than 500 planets found to orbit stars beyond our solar system. It is one of the smallest exoplanet found and the best positioned to have liquid water on its surface – among the ingredients necessary for life on Earth.
This artist's impression shows a sunset seen from the super-Earth Gliese 667 Cc. The brightest star in the sky is the red dwarf Gliese 667 C, which is part of a triple star system. The other two more distant stars, Gliese 667 A and B appear in the sky also to the right. Astronomers have estimated that there are tens of billions of such rocky worlds orbiting faint red dwarf stars in the Milky Way alone.
A planet-like object, dubbed 'Sedna' is seen in this artist's concept released by Nasa on 26 March 2014. Astronomers have found a small icy body far beyond Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, a discovery that calls into question exactly what was going on during the early days of our solar system.
Reuters/Nasa/JPL-Caltech/Handout via Reuters
Dwarf planet Ceres is seen in the main asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, as illustrated in this undated artist's conception released by Nasa on 22 January 2014. Ceres, one of the most intriguing objects in the solar system, is gushing water vapor from its frigid surface into space, scientists said on Wednesday in a finding that raises questions about whether it might be hospitable to life.
Reuters/Nasa/ESA/Handout via Reuters
Nasa's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet circling another star in this image released by Nasa on 13 November 2008. Estimated to be no more than three times Jupiter's mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b, orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light years away in the constellation Piscis Australis, or the 'Southern Fish'. Fomalhaut has been a candidate for planet hunting ever since an excess of dust was discovered around the star in the early 1980s by Nasa's Infrared Astronomy Satellite, IRAS.
Reuters/Nasa, ESA, P Kalas, J Graham, E Chiang, E Kite (University of California, Berkeley); M Clampin (Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center); M Fitzgerald (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory); K Stapelfeldt and J Krist (Nasa JPL/Handout)
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