Category Archives: Planets

NASA finds an ice-cold planet right next door

You may have heard about the recent discovery of an ice cold “brown dwarf” or “star” right next door in our Solar Neighborhood. The object, which goes by the telephone number* WISE J085510.83-071442.5, is only 7.2 light-years from our Solar … Continue reading

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Success for Kepler: an Earth-sized planet in the habitable (?) zone

The Kepler Spacecraft’s primary planet hunting mission has ended, but the data it generated will keep astronomers busy for years to come.  Today, NASA announced that it has found in that mountain of data, Kepler’s first truly Earth-sized planet in … Continue reading

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Dwarf planets and the problem of the IAU

What is a dwarf planet? Under the definition accepted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a dwarf planet is any object orbiting the Sun that is large enough to become round under its own gravity, but is not large enough … Continue reading

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Planets abound!

It’s always fun when a government agency uses the word “bonanza” in a press release. NASA’s Kepler space telescope spent mission spent three and a half years observing distant stars in our galaxy looking for planets crossing in front of … Continue reading

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GPI: a new way of planet-hunting

We’ve had the capability to find planets by taking pictures of them directly for a while now, usually in the infrared, but sometimes in visible light. But now we have the capability to do a whole lot more of it. … Continue reading

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A second planet seen in visible light–and it’s a weird one

You may have recently heard about HD 106906b, the latest of many oddballs in the rapidly growing exoplanet family. This planet orbits far away from its star, far enough that it is not lost in the glare, and can be … Continue reading

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Mismatched planets

We would expect that planets that form close together would be similar to one another. We would also expect that planets that form close together would stay close together and planets that form far apart would stay far apart. Therefore, … Continue reading

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