Wednesday, January 11, 2012

NASA's Kepler Mission Finds Three Smallest Exoplanets

Artist's concept depicts an itsy bitsy planetary system This artist's concept depicts an itsy bitsy planetary system -- so compact, in fact, that it's more like Jupiter and its moons than a star and its planets. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech › Full image and caption
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January 11, 2012
PASADENA, Calif. - Astronomers using data from NASA's Kepler mission have discovered the three smallest planets yet detected orbiting a star beyond our sun. The planets orbit a single star, called KOI-961, and are 0.78, 0.73 and 0.57 times the radius of Earth. The smallest is about the size of Mars.

All three planets are thought to be rocky like Earth but orbit close to their star, making them too hot to be in the habitable zone, which is the region where liquid water could exist. Of the more than 700 planets confirmed to orbit other stars, called exoplanets, only a handful are known to be rocky.


Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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