Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The discovery of the smallest exoplanet

The most interesting result of the recent NASA's mission was the discovery of the smallest planet outside our solar system, named Kepler-10b. This planet has 1.4 times the size of our planet, and it is the first rocky planet discovered outside our solar system.

The planet outside our solar system are called exoplanets, and this exoplanet was found after eight months of collecting data by the spacecraft, in period from May 2009 to early January 2010.

This is the first discovered rocky planet orbiting a star other than our sun, and this will certainly give more credibility to NASA+s attempts to find the Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone, the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the planet's surface.

If we were to compare some of this planet's properties with planets in out own solar system then Kepler-10b is more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun and thus not in the habitable zone.

Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington said that "the discovery of Kepler 10-b is a significant milestone in the search for planets similar to our own, and although this planet is not in the habitable zone, the exciting find showcases the kinds of discoveries made possible by the mission and the promise of many more to come."

Kepler-10 b has a mass 4.6 times that of Earth and with an average density of 8.8 grams per cubic centimeter which is similar to that of an iron dumbbell.