Milky Way Center is a Massive Rotating Bar of Stars
Pluto Discovery: Hubble's 'Cosmic Origins' Probe Finds Complex Molecules on Surface

NASA to Announce Alien Planet Discoveries Tuesday Afternoon


Counting Kepler and the other ground- and space-based planet searches underway, scientists have discovered a total of more than 700 confirmed alien planets. They're still on the hunt for a Twin Earth in the habitable zone --roughly the right size and temperature to host life.

Tuesday's press conference will begin at 1 p.m. EST and will be webcast on NASA's website. Speakers will include:

Nick Gautier, Kepler project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Francois Fressin, the lead scientist on the new discovery, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.
David Charbonneau, professor of astronomy at Harvard University
Linda Elkins-Tanton, director of the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington

The public can listen in on the alien planet announcement using NASA's News Audio website.

The $600 million Kepler mission is slated to run until at least November 2012, though its science team is hoping for an extension of the mission until 2016 or so.

NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed its first planet in the "habitable zone," the region where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. Kepler also has discovered more than 1,000 new planet candidates, nearly doubling its previously known count. Ten of these candidates are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their host star. Candidates require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets.

The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The planet is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth. Scientists don't yet know if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets.

Previous research hinted at the existence of near-Earth-size planets in habitable zones, but clear confirmation proved elusive. Two other small planets orbiting stars smaller and cooler than our sun recently were confirmed on the very edges of the habitable zone, with orbits more closely resembling those of Venus and Mars.

"This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth's twin," said Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Kepler's results continue to demonstrate the importance of NASA's science missions, which aim to answer some of the biggest questions about our place in the universe."

Kepler has discovered 1,235 exoplanets that revolve around a sun, in an area that represents around 1/400th of the Milky Way. By extrapolating these numbers, the Kepler team has estimated that there are at least 50 billion exoplanets in our galaxy — 500 million of which sit inside the habitable "Goldilocks" zones of their suns, the area that it is neither too hot nor too cold to support life.

Astronomers estimate that there are 100 billion galaxies in the universe. If you want to extrapolate those numbers, that means there are around 50,000,000,000,000,000,000 (50 quintillion) potentially habitable planets in the universe.

As Arthur C. Clarke, physicist and author of 2001: A Space Odyssey wrote, "The idea that we are the only intelligent creatures in a cosmos of a hundred billion galaxies is so preposterous that there are very few astronomers today who would take it seriously. It is safest to assume therefore, that they are out there and to consider the manner in which this may impinge upon human society."

Sources: NASA/JPL


I have always wondered:
How or who arrived to this figure of 100 billion galaxies in the universe?
Could it 200 or just 50 billion galaxies?

Luis: Space at a very large scale is mostly uniform. Therefore if you count the galaxies in a very small region and figure out what percent of the sky that region is, you can a very good estimate of the number of galaxies. Of course this is simply the number of galaxies in the VISIBLE universe. We have no way of accurately estimating the number of galaxies beyond the visible boundary. At least not yet anyway.

LRG 3-757 Einstein's lens.....might it not be possible to communicate
with distant world's, by using an Einstein lens? Is this an Einstein's worm
hole? That light between the two or more lens, is faster than normal
space? What if we were able to teleport ourselves to some distant
galaxy, wouldn't an Einstein's lens wormhole, be better? The shortest
route in the universe? If only in digital format.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)