Kepler discovers five new planets, all gas giants

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Eh, just five gas giants so far. Well, I suppose it's nice that we've reached a point where the discovery of five new extrasolar planets is not all that big a deal. Kepler 4-b seems to be the most interesting one, with a diameter 60% that of Jupiter but just 6% the mass. Compare that to Saturn, which has a diameter 84% that of Jupiter and 30% of its mass. Edit: Kepler 7-b is also quite interesting (see the link below) with the lowest density of any extrasolar planet so far - 0.17 grams per cubic centimetre. Saturn ranks up at 0.69.

The news conference isn't supposed to start for another three hours so I assume the few links that have just popped up are by those that have obtained an overview of Kepler's first discoveries before the detailed conference begins. If so then we should find out quite a bit more about these planets soon.

Edit: this link also mentions that Kepler has an additional 100 or so candidates that are as yet unconfirmed and may just end up being an interaction with the other star in a binary system, unexplained noise or who knows what else.

Edit 2: this link mentions that data will begin to be released to the public on a regular basis starting in June 2010. Another site mentioned that since Kepler is capable of imaging so many stars at the same time, the discovery of these five shows that planets at such close proximity to their host star are really quite rare. Easy to detect, but statistically rare.

Edit 3: here's a nice image from this page showing all the planets together with their sizes compared with Earth, Neptune and Jupiter.


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