An extrasolar planet, or exoplanet, is a planet beyond the Solar System, orbiting around another star. As of December 2008, 333 exoplanets are listed in the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia. The vast majority have been detected through radial velocity observations and other indirect methods rather than actual imaging. Most exoplanets are massive gas giant planets thought to resemble Jupiter, but this is a selection effect due to limitations in detection technology. The forthcoming NASA Kepler Mission will search for exoplanets using a completely different technique: planetary transits. It is estimated that at least 10% of sun-like stars have planets, and the true proportion may be much higher. The discovery of extrasolar planets sharpens the question of whether some might support extraterrestrial life. Currently, Gliese 581d, the third planet of the red dwarf star Gliese 581 (approximately 20 light years from Earth), appears to be the best example yet discovered of a possible terrestrial exoplanet that orbits close to the habitable zone surrounding its star.
ESO (Sep. 16, 2009) – The longest set of HARPS measurements ever made has firmly established the nature of the smallest and fastest-orbiting exoplanet known, CoRoT-7b, revealing...
A Little Telescope Goes a Long WayLast Updated on 2010-02-09 at 17:35PASADENA, CA (Feb. 9, 2010) – NASA astronomers have successfully demonstrated that a David of a telescope can tackle Goliath-size questions in the quest to study Earth-like... More »
Avatar's Moon Pandora Could Be RealLast Updated on 2009-12-18 at 12:33CAMBRIDGE, MA (Dec. 18, 2009) – In the new blockbuster Avatar, humans visit the habitable - and inhabited - alien moon called Pandora. Life-bearing moons like Pandora or the... More »
Exoplanet: AtmosphereLast Updated on 2009-11-09 at 18:05An "exoplanet" is an extra-solar planet, that is, a planet orbiting a star other than our own sun. Of the roughly 307 currently known extrasolar planets, about thirty of... More »