News / Science & Technology

NASA Scientists Discover More Than Two Dozen New Exoplanets

An artist's drawing of an exoplanet discovered by the Kepler space telescope. (NASA)
An artist's drawing of an exoplanet discovered by the Kepler space telescope. (NASA)
Jessica Berman

Twenty-six new exoplanets have been discovered by NASA scientists seeking to locate planets outside our solar system.  The alien planets were found orbiting stars in 11 newly discovered solar systems by the Kepler telescope, which the U.S. space agency operates.

The exoplanets range in size from slightly larger than Earth to larger than the gas giant Jupiter in our solar system.  They were discovered by Kepler, a space telescope which stares at 150,000 stars in a narrow sliver of the night sky from its perch orbiting the sun.

The alien planets orbit their host stars, which are bigger than the sun, once every six to 143 days.  The largest of the newly-discovered solar systems, called Kepler-33, hosts five exoplanets ranging in size from one-and-a-half to five times Earth’s size.

Doug Hudgins is the program scientist with the Kepler mission.  Hudgins says scientists do not believe any of the newly discovered exoplanets could support life.

“All of them are in orbits that are smaller than our Earth’s orbit around our sun.  So they would be fairly hot planets,” Hudgins said.

In the two years since the Kepler began observing the cosmos, scientists have discovered 61 exoplanets and some 2,300 candidate planets that need to be verified through further observations.

Kepler identifies exoplanets by continuously monitoring the brightness of a distant star in its narrow field.  A planet orbiting its host sun casts a faint shadow that is detected by Kepler.

The telescope confirms planetary candidates by measuring so-called Transit Timing Variations, or TTVs, which occur when two or more planets in a tightly packed solar system orbit their host stars.  

The gravitational pull of each passing planet causes one to speed up and another to slow down, according to Hudgins, helping astronomers confirm a planetary observation

“If you had something that was just mimicking a planet transit, they wouldn’t interact.  The fact that you see these transit timing variations tells us that there’s a gravitational interaction and that tells us that these really have to be planets because they are interacting with each other," Hudgins said.

Hudgins says the ultimate goal for planet hunters is a telescope that can separate the light of a dimmer planet from its bright star, allowing scientists to study its electromagnetic spectrum.  

The information gleaned from the light spectrum could tell astronomers what gases make up a planet’s atmosphere and possibly even some surface characteristics, according to Hudgins, who is anxious to find signs of life.  

“That’s why we do this.  That’s the exciting thing,  We are addressing one of the oldest and most fundamental questions of humankind.  And that is, are we alone?,” Hudgins said.

Hudgins believes such a telescope will be built in his lifetime, allowing Kepler scientists to move on to the next phase of their discovery mission.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid