Small World: NASA Kepler Mission Finds Smallest Exoplanet Yet
What can we say, folks — some days, all the cool news comes from space, and this is one of those days. On a day that has already brought us revelations about nearby stars and details of the latest mission to Mars, NASA’s Kepler mission to seek out habitable exoplanets announced that it has turned up it’s smallest find yet — Kepler-37b, a teeny, tiny exoplanet about 210 light years away that is just a little bit larger than our own Moon.
The Kepler team suspects that Kepler-37b is probably not fit for life, though that has little to do with its dimensions. The pint-sized planet, which was only detected by the disruptions it made to the sound waves created by the star it orbits, is most likely of a rocky composition, and boasts little or no atmosphere to speak of, said a statement released by NASA. Oh, also, the temperature on the surface probably hovers around 800 degrees Fahrenheit, so there’s that to take into account.
The new smallest planet found by Kepler was discovered in the company of two other planets — the nearly Earth-sized Kepler-37c and Kepler 37-d, which is as large as two Earths. Beyond being kind of adorable because it’s a little baby planet, Kepler-37b also shows how far mission scientists have come in refining their planetary detection methods, which allow them to keep finding smaller and smaller planets, farther and farther out in the universe. To this, we say: Good on you, NASA.
- This planet isn’t in anyone’s Goldilocks Zone
- Those Kepler folks are mighty busy of late
- This infographic from XKCD is going to have a hard time keeping up
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