In a milestone hailed by scientists as a key step toward finding another Earth-like world, astronomers Tuesday announced the discovery of two blazingly hot planets roughly the size of Earth some 950 light years distant.
The discovery “demonstrates for first time that Earth-size planets exist around other stars, and that we can detect them,” said Francois Fressin, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who led the discovery team.
At least four times in the last few years, astronomers have announced they have found planets orbiting other stars in the sweet spot known as the habitable zone — not too hot, not too cold — where water and thus perhaps life are possible. In short, a so-called Goldilocks planet fit to be inhabited by the biochemical likes of us.
CERN’s Large Hadron Collider has begun refining our understanding of the fabric of space and time, and NASA’s Kepler mission is sharpening our estimates of how common Earth-like planets are in our galaxy. Yet as these cosmic-scale projects open the second decade of the new millennium they are returning science to a frontier that seems oddly 19th century. Science is going back to the scale of life—that middle ground of minute energies and high complexities that lies between the immense galaxies and the infinitesimal particles.
Cambridge, MA - The search for planets outside our solar system continues to heat up. NASA's Kepler spacecraft has located more than 1,200 planetary candidates, however confirming them remains a challenge. In some circumstances, an eclipsing binary star can mimic the shallow dimming due to a planet crossing in front of its star. Ground-based measurements are needed to verify an orbiting world by spotting the gravitational wobbles it induces in its host star, in a method known as radial velocity.