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Exoplanets

  1. Space

    All of the Exoplanets, to Scale, Courtesy of xkcd [INFOGRAPHIC]

    One of the best things the comic strip xkcd does is present the mind-bogglingly large in a beautiful, elegant way. This time, the webcomic's artist turned his eye to exoplanets, presenting all the other worlds we've yet discovered in one image, to scale. There sure are an awful lot of them.

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  2. Space

    Astronomers May Have Found Most Populous Exoplanet System

    In 2010, astronomers announced that they'd discovered at least five -- or as many as seven -- exoplanets orbiting the sunlike star HD 10180 in the constellation Hydrus. Now, a new analysis of that data suggests that there are least seven planets, but as many as nine orbiting the distant star. If true, this would make the HD 10180 the most populous exoplanet system yet discovered.

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  3. Space

    Planet Hunting Kepler Probe’s Mission Extended Through 2016

    If there's one thing space nerds love to complain about, it's the state of the NASA budget. Thankfully saved from the chopping block is the Kepler mission, which since 2009 has been searching the skies for exoplanets with remarkable success. What may surprise some is that Kepler was meant to be a 3.5 year mission to seek out strange new worlds. Thankfully, the probe's hunt for alien worlds has now been extended until 2016.

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  4. Space

    Super Earth-Sized Waterworld Confirmed By Hubble Telescope

    Discovered back in 2009, exoplanet GJ 1214b has been the focus of interest from the start. One of the first planets discovered to have an atmosphere, there's been a lot of guessing as to exactly what kind it actually has. In 2010, tests showed that the atmosphere was primarily composed of water, and now infrared spectra taken by the Hubble Space Telescope have confirmed that it is in fact a waterworld and a planet unlike any other that has been previously discovered.

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  5. Space

    NASA Discovers First Earth-Sized Planets Out of Our Solar System, Unfortunately Not in Habitable Zone

    NASA's Kepler has found the first earth-sized planets orbiting a star outside of our solar system. Unfortunately for extraterrestrial life enthusiasts, the planets are too close to the star, so they are not in the star's habitable zone. Dubbed Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, the planets are in located a distance from the star that liquid water could not exist on their respective surfaces, however, the planets set a record for being the smallest exoplanets found orbiting a star similar to our sun.

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  6. Space

    Enormous Planets Composed of Diamond May Exist in Our Galaxy

    Scientists investigating how elements respond in varying conditions have made a tantalizing discovery with potentially galactic ramifications. According to their work, it may be possible for enormous planets consisting of 50% diamond to form within our galaxy. Suddenly, your trip to Kay Jewelers seems startlingly insignificant.

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  7. Space

    50 Exoplanets Found, One Might Be An Inhabitable Super-Earth

    The HARPS team at the La Silla Observatory in Chile recently discovered a slew of 50 exoplanets in one go. Of these 50, there is one that is particularly interesting as it may be able to support life: HD 85512 b. This rocky planet that is about 3 times the mass of Earth and sits on the edge of its star's habitable area. Early calculations suggest it has an average temperature around 77 degrees Fahrenheit, a fact which in turn suggests it has 50% cloud cover -- both very Earthlike qualities. As much as we'd all like it to be a potential Earth Prime, it's worth keeping in mind that this isn't a sure thing, yet.

    You remember, perhaps, Gliese 581g which was also touted to be an Earthlike, potentially life-sustaining planet until its discovery fell into question. While that is unlikely to happen a second time, it's possible that HD 85512 b's clouds might be made of something other than water or that there is no water on the planet at all. It's hard to tell.

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  8. Space

    Gliese 581g: An Earth-Like Planet Has Been Discovered that Could Sustain Life

    An Earth-like planet has been discovered just 20 light-years away in the Gliese 581 system following an eleven-year observation, and NASA says that this could be "the most Earth-like exoplanet yet discovered and the first strong case for a potentially habitable one." Dubbed Gliese 581g because it is the sixth planet orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581, the planet has a mass of three to four times Earth's, orbits its star in just 37 days, and is "tidally locked" to the star, meaning that one side is always facing the star and it's always light on that side, while one side is always facing away and it's always dark. Sci-fi sounding details aside, the reason Gliese 581g has scientists so excited can be summed up in one word: Water.

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  9. Space

    A Look at HD 10180, the Most Planet-Rich Solar System Discovered Outside Our Own

    HD 10180 is a sun-like star 127 light-years away from our galaxy which, per the recent findings of the ESO 3.6 meter telescope in Chile, has at least five and possibly as many as seven planets in its orbit. Either number makes it the most planet-rich solar system yet discovered outside our own. This probably isn't indicative of the totality of what's out there, though: It's more likely a function of the way that we detect other planets by measuring the wobble of the stars they orbit around.

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