Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Lots of planets!

I was interested to hear about the success of the first 43 days of the Kepler space observatory - in less than 2 months it studied over 150,000 stars and it looks like over 700 could have planets orbiting them, including many solid planets which could potentially support life.

Some of the stars appear to have 2 or more planets, which could increase the chances of life evolving elsewhere. Smaller solid planets in a star system with a large gas giant like Jupiter are a likely place. The gas giant can help "hoover up" asteroids and smaller planetoids, reducing the number of meteorites impacting on the solid planets and increasing the chances of survival for anything which does evolve.

The star Gliese 581 in the constellation of Libra appears to have 4 planets, one of which (Gliese 581e) is only around twice the mass of Earth.

The closest planet so far discovered is Epsilon Eridani b, only 10.5 light years away.

Science Fiction is becoming science fact all the time...

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