Thursday, August 20, 2009

NASA's planet-hunter probe turns in early surprise

Just launched in March, NASA's planet-hunting Kepler probe has already surprised scientists in its first 10 days of gathering data. (Wired) Gazing at a planet that scientists thought was a "hot Jupiter," Kepler tells us it actually isn't spinning (it has a "dark" side) and may have an atmosphere full of "exotic chemicals" like titanium oxide. The planet, HAT-P-7b, has a hot spot that's 1,300 degrees warmer than the coolest spot. "There is no comparable planet around our star."

According to one scientist, "this exquisite data is just the tip of the iceberg." One, Kepler is ushering a new age of more rapid, accurate and detailed exoplanet discovery. Two, Keplers ultimate goal is to find small, rocky planets in the "habitable zone" around alien stars, "Earth-like" planets that may be home to life.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.