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Extrasolar Planets

Planets abound: Astronomers estimate that at least 100 billion planets populate the galaxy

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A new analysis of data from NASA's Kepler mission finds evidence for at least 100 billion planets in our galaxy. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Jan. 3, 2013 — Look up at the night sky and you'll see stars, sure. But you're also seeing planets -- billions and billions of them. At least.

That's the conclusion of a new study by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) that provides yet more evidence that planetary systems are the cosmic norm. The team made their estimate while analyzing planets orbiting a star called Kepler-32 -- planets that are representative, they say, of the vast majority in the galaxy and thus serve as a perfect case study for understanding how most planets...

How young star and planets grow simultaneously

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Artist's conception of HD142527 system: Gas streamers cross gap in protoplanetary disk. (Credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Jan. 2, 2013 — Astronomers have used the ALMA telescope to get their first glimpse of a fascinating stage of star formation in which planets forming around a young star are helping the star itself continue to grow, resolving a longstanding mystery. The young system, about 450 light-years from Earth, is revealing its complex gravitational dance...

Giant planets seen guzzling gas as they grow: Key stage of birth of giant planets seen for first time

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Artist’s impression of the disc and gas streams around HD 142527. (Credit: Image courtesy of ESO)

Jan. 2, 2012 — Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope have seen a key stage in the birth of giant planets for the first time. Vast streams of gas are flowing across a gap in the disc of material around a young star. These are the first direct observations of such streams, which are expected to be created by giant planets...

Saturn mission: Cassini instrument learns new tricks

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This false-color composite image, constructed from data obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, shows Saturn's rings and southern hemisphere. The composite image was made from 65 individual observations by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer in the near-infrared portion of the light spectrum on Nov. 1, 2008. The observations were each six minutes long. (Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Dec. 20, 2012 — For seven years, a mini-fridge-sized...

Closest single star like our sun may have habitable planet

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Artist’s impression of the Tau Ceti system. (Credit: J. Pinfield for the RoPACS network at the University of Hertfordshire, 2012)

Dec. 19, 2012 — An international team of astronomers led by the University of Hertfordshire has discovered that Tau Ceti, one of the closest and most Sun-like stars, may host five planets -- with one in the star's habitable zone.

At a distance of twelve light years and visible with the naked eye in the evening sky, Tau Ceti...