1. Space

    Have Astronomers Found Earth’s Twin?

    Details at this point are being kept on the down-low, but last week's Search For Life Beyond The Solar System Conference yielded some very exciting news: a planet roughly the size of Earth and capable of having liquid water on its surface (and consequently life) may have been discovered inside the Milky Way. Road trip, anyone?

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  2. Science

    One Year on This Tiny Exoplanet Lasts Just Eight and a Half Hours

    It's been a little more than a year since I started here at Geekosystem, and man, has it gone fast. Nowhere near as fast as a year passes on the tiny, molten exoplanet Kepler 78B, though. The planet, discovered by researchers at MIT and elsewhere, completes a breakneck orbit of its home star in just eight and a half hours.

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  3. Science

    Born This Way: Some Rogue Planets May Have Formed Outside of Solar Systems

    We're used to thinking of planets the way we think of the planets closest to us -- as objects following a fixed orbit around a local star. Not all planets are made for the button-down, orbital lifestyle, though. Some roam the cosmos, calling no star master, and new evidence suggests some of them even took shape that way.

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  4. Space

    Hubble Discovers Evidence of Planet Forming 7.5 Billion Miles Away From Its Own Star

    Big Bang aside, most of us non-scientists tend to not to think for very long about how exactly it is that planets are formed nowadays. Well, I certainly don't, at least, because most of the time I'm too busy deciding what food I want to eat at any given moment. But thank God for the Hubble Telescope, through which astronomers have found compelling evidence of a planet forming billions of miles away from its star. Even cooler, this might serve to completely change all of the current theories about planet reformation. 

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  5. Space

    New Telescope Imaging Technique Reveals Four of the Weirdest Planets Ever Discovered

    A new imaging system has allowed a team of astronomers to reveal new details about the four planets orbiting a nearby star, proving them to be among the strangest celestial bodies on record. Each one has about ten times the mass of the planet Jupiter, and rather than the blend of methane and ammonia one would expect in their atmospheres, the giant planets have one or the other instead.

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  6. Space

    Today in Geek History: William Herschel Discovers Uranus

    We love our planets. We clap our hands when we discover something new about one, we raise our heads when their moons need naming, and we lament when it turns out one of them isn't a planet after all (but we secretly still pretend it is). We also positively freak out when we discover a new one. For example: On March 13th, 1781, astronomer Sir Frederick William Herschel announced the discovery of Uranus. Astronomical comedy was never the same, because no celestial object can generate more jokes than Uranus.

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  7. Space

    New Definition Boots Earth Out Of ‘Goldilocks Zone’ for Habitable Planets

    As researchers sift through reams of data looking for the telltale signs of planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy, special attention is paid to planets in the so-called 'Goldilocks Zone' that could conceivably support life. In the interest of improving and honing the search for Earth-like planets, a team of astronomers led by Penn State University has proposed some changes to the 'Goldilocks Zone' that they think paint a better picture of where life-sustaining planets would orbit in relation to their stars. There's just one problem -- that new definition kicks the Earth's orbit nearly out of the new 'Goldilocks Zone,' meaning that we are all going to have to move to a planet that could support life, as this one clearly can't. Get packing, everyone.

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  8. Space

    Pluto Strikes Back: Moons, Possible Rings of Former Planet Could Damage NASA Probe

    It's been more than six years since Pluto was demoted from its once vaunted status as the ninth planet in our solar system to one of more than 40 dwarf planets. While it is, yes, scientifically accurate, the decision has never set well with plenty of folks, yours truly included. The former ninth planet didn't have a chance to defend itself from NASA's slings and arrows during the review process, but it might get a chance at a little vengeance in a couple of years, watching its moons -- and even the rings it might have -- bang around NASA's New Horizons Probe on its way out of the solar system.

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  9. Space

    Researcher Suggests Phantom Planet in Our Solar System

    Modern astronomy has finally begun to find planets outside our solar system, but it's also tracked down some weird objects orbiting our own sun. Objects like Sedna have surprised astronomers, but one researcher is suggesting that something much larger might be out there: A never before seen planet in our own solar system. Of course, proving such a claim will be tricky.

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  10. Space

    Scientists Discover New Super-Earth Within Habitable Zone of Nearby Star

    An international team of scientists has discovered a new super-Earth orbiting a star only 22 light years away. The orbiting planet has a an orbital period of around 28 days and a minimum mass 4.5 times the size of Earth. Most excitingly, the planet orbits its star within a zone where temperatures are within the right range for water to exist, neither too hot nor too cold, otherwise known as the habitable zone.

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  11. Space

    “Orphan Planets” Without Solar Systems May Be More Numerous Than Stars

    While we tend to think of planets as orbiting stars, as in our own solar system, according to a recent survey of the Milky Way galaxy, the findings of which were published in the latest issue of Nature [paywalled], the universe may be abundant with rogue planets that drift alone through space, with no central star. The astronomers behind the survey discovered ten so-called "orphan planets" roughly the size of Jupiter at the heart of the Milky Way. But what's more interesting than the planets they discovered are the implications of their discovery: As the planets were discovered within a relatively small swath of the galaxy, it's likely, based on their 'population density,' that free-floating planets outnumber the stars.

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  12. Space

    Planets with Two Suns Could Have Black Vegetation

    The more you know: According to research presented at a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society, two-sunned (bisolar?) planets, should they be capable of supporting vegetation, would be likely to have black or grey plants instead of green greenery. While this may sound like a needless layer of sci-fi whimsy, the optical reasoning they present seems sound enough: "To maximize energy absorption for photosynthesis, especially when the suns have vastly different colors or if at least one of the suns is dim, plants—or, more correctly, their extraterrestrial analogs—may use one or more types of light-absorbing pigments that absorb across a broad range of wavelengths, which would tend to make the plant appear black or gray." So: More suns means wavelengths means more light-absorbing pigments, and with fewer wavelengths to be bounced back at our retinae as a result, a blacker coloration would result. Not exactly the sort of research one can easily lab-test, but a fun thought-experiment either way. (Science Mag via Slashdot. pic via Wallpaper DJ)

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  13. Space

    Imagine Jupiter Filling the Entire Sky [Video]

    After being inspired by the recent lunar eclipse, Brad Goodspeed wondered what the sky would look like if the planets in our universe were as close to Earth as the moon is and revolved around us. And it would probably amaze us while, at the same time, scaring the crap out of us. Imagine if he'd included all 63 of Jupiter's moons? Ouch. (Click through to watch in HD.) (BradBlogSpeed via Neatorama)

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  14. Space

    This Is the First Confirmed Photograph of an Alien Planet

    A picture that the Gemini Observatory took in 2008 has just been officially confirmed as the first direct photograph of a planet outside our solar system. While we have images of other alien planets -- a.k.a. "exoplanets" -- such images have been composed via indirect means of observation, such as gravitational fluctuations, rather than as true photographs. This particular planet is about eight times the mass of Jupiter, and orbits the star 1RSX J160929.1-210524, which is located about 500 light-years away. The unnamed planet is the little orange dot in the upper-left-hand quadrant of the photograph above.

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  15. Space

    NASA Drafts Our Prime Directive

    NASA has an Office of Planetary Protection. It's where the Officer of Planetary Protection works. And that may be the most awesome thing I've heard all week. Goodnight everybody! ...Just kidding. But there really is an Office of Planetary Protection at NASA, and its job is to keep us from irretrievably screwing up interaction between terrestrial life and extra-terrestrial life (or possible extra-terrestrial life). Boing Boing has an article up about the ever-changing job of creating the protocol that we use to avoid horrible science fiction disasters.

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