Five exoplanets identified by Kepler space telescope: NASA

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 - 21:00

Washington: Five new exoplanets -- earth-size
planets in the habitable zone of sun-like stars -- have been
discovered by NASA scientists.

The five planets -- Kepler 4b, 5b, 6b, 7b and 8b -- named
after Kepler space telescope which identified them, vary in
size from that of a Neptune to larger than Jupiter, the US
space agency reported on its website.


The planets are also called "hot Jupiters" because of
their high masses extreme temperatures ranging from 2,200
to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.


The temperatures are too high for life to exist on these
planets, the agency said.

"These observations contribute to our understanding of
how planetary systems form and evolve from the gas and dust
disks that give rise to both the stars and their planets,"
said William Borucki of NASA`s Ames Research Center in
California.


The planets, whose stars are hotter and larger than our
Sun, have an orbiting period ranging from 3.3 to 4.9 days.


Jon Morse, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA
said, "We expected Jupiter-size planets in short orbits to be
the first planets Kepler could detect.


The mission, which is expected to continue until at least
November 2012, will search for planets as small as Earth,
including those that orbit stars in a warm habitable zone
where liquid water could exist on the surface of the planet.



"It`s only a matter of time before more Kepler
observations lead to smaller planets with longer period
orbits, coming closer and closer to the discovery of the first
Earth analog," Morse said.


"Today`s discoveries are a significant contribution to
that goal. The Kepler observations will tell us whether there
are many stars with planets that could harbour life, or
whether we might be alone in our galaxy," Borucki said.


The Kepler mission was launched last year from Florida.
It continuously and simultaneously observes more than 1,50,000
stars and has already measured hundreds of possible planet
signatures that are being analysed.


The existence of five exoplanets was confirmed by the
ground-based observatories.


The discoveries were announced yesterday by the members
of the Kepler science team during a news briefing at the
American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington.



PTI



First Published: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 - 21:00

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