Astronomers Find New Exoplanets and NASA Makes Tourism Posters

Astronomers Find New Exoplanets and NASA Makes Tourism Posters

Kepler 37 planet lineup News Edit

Two new Earth-like planets get pegged by the American Astronomical Society.

As the search for Earth-like planets continues, astronomers using NASA's Kepler Spacecraft data have found two bodies that could be the most similar to our own world yet.

Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b are the official designations, and the planets both appear to check necessary boxes on the "could they support human life," list (even if they are both several hundred light years away). For starters, 438b and 442b both orbit their stars within the liquid water window -- not too close, and not too far away. Liquid water isn't guaranteed on these planets, but their respective orbital paths mean it's a possibility. Furthermore, they both receive an appropriate amount of sunlight from their respective stars, both of which are dimmer than our own sun.

"Kepler-438b is only about 12 percent larger than Earth, and basks in 40 percent more starlight," says Scientific American. "[And] Kepler-442b is 30 percent larger and receives about 30 percent less light."

When looking for planets that could support human life, "close enough," is the name of the game. Less sunlight isn't a dealbreakr, so long as the atmosphere is conducive, and there's water to drink.

Five other, smaller planets were also discovered, but data on them is not immediately available. The findings, which were initially presented at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, will be made public in their entirety in The Astrophysical Journal later this year.

The two possible Earth-like planets are exciting news, for sure, but it's only a drop in the bucket. NASA's archive of uncatalogued planetary data from the Kepler spacecraft now numbers over 4,000, meaning there's a lot of data to chew through still.

In other Kepler news, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been having a bit of fun with a few of the more popular confirmed exoplanets. Three tourism posters were commissioned last month, highlighting planets HD 40307g, Kepler-186f, and Kepler-16b. Discovered in 2011, Kepler-16b is a planet roughly the size of Saturn, while 2014's Kepler-186f is roughly the same size as Earth. HD 40307g is a habitable zone exoplanet that's relatively close to Earth, at 42 light years away.

Click through on the mini gallery below for larger images. The originals can be found here.

Source: Scientific American | NASA JPL

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As great as this news is, it's those posters that made my day. They're simply fantastic.

I would love to nab some full-sized, glossy-print lithographs of each. They'd look spectacular in my living room.

Here's something neat to think of: the Kepler telescope has found 1004 planets, 8 of which we consider to be habitable.

The Kepler telescope only scans a tiny patch of about 0.25% of the sky, so theoretically if there were 400 of those telescopes in operation scanning every single bit of the sky, we could expect it to find somewhere in the neighborhood of 401,600 exoplanets, of which around 3,200 or so would fit our narrowly-defined "habitable" category.

And those would just be a drop in the bucket compared to the actual number of exoplanets in our galaxy, since the sample of exoplanets only consists of those oriented in such a way that their planets eclipse their star from our perspective, and the ability to detect them diminishes with distance from Earth.

Whoa.

To me it seems like a cruel joke since we'll not be able to travel there or see the planet up close for a century or more.

Nurb:
To me it seems like a cruel joke since we'll not be able to travel there or see the planet up close for a century or more.

But one day, long in the future Project Seed will take us there, and Vash The Stampede will save all our butts!

these postrs look a lot like illustrations of sci-fi books ive read as a child. I like them a lot.

Nurb:
To me it seems like a cruel joke since we'll not be able to travel there or see the planet up close for a century or more.

Looking at society today, I don't think we're ready for it. Maybe in a century, we'll have matured enough as a species for that, and the discoveries that would come of those journeys.

If the sun was redder, wouldn't the plants have to be a color other than red? If the plants were red, they would be reflecting the additional red light, not absorbing it.

XMark:
Here's something neat to think of: the Kepler telescope has found 1004 planets, 8 of which we consider to be habitable.

I know right? God I love the Kepler mission, I cheered when I heard that they re-purposed it.

In total we've found even more potentially habitable world candidates. And another thing to keep in mind is just how short we've been looking for these things. The Kepler mission alone has only been active for about 6 years, and just look at the rate that these planets have been popping up. Sheesh, that's just amazing.

Also, about that list, I find it funny that we've found a few planets that apparently, according to their estimates, are better suited for vegetation growth than Earth.

But yeah, these posters are amazing. I'm all up in that Art Deco-ish style of things, these would go great with my TF2 and BioShock 2 posters.

Alcom1:
If the sun was redder, wouldn't the plants have to be a color other than red? If the plants were red, they would be reflecting the additional red light, not absorbing it.

It's not that simple though.

The spectral peak of our own sun (the wavelength at which it emits the most light) is green.

And yet we have green plants that reflect the most intense parts of the sun's light...
Now, this is really just a quirk of evolution (we had purple algae before we had green. - Purple would be the colour we would get if plants absorbed the peak of our star's output. Green is what happened because the purple ones already existed, but they were more efficient so the purple ones died out.)

So... We have green plants as an evolutionary quirk, rather than as something which is actually optimal for the light our star emits. (and if you think about it, the actual optimal colour would be black. Similar to how solar panels are 'black' - well, bluish black, but close enough.)

 

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