Kepler Discovers Its Smallest and First Rocky Planet

NASA’s Kepler mission confirmed the discovery of its first rocky planet, named Kepler-10b. Kepler-10b is a scorched world, orbiting at a distance that’s more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our own Sun. The daytime temperature’s expected to be more than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than lava flows here on Earth. Intense radiation from the star has kept the planet from holding onto an atmosphere. Flecks of silicates and iron may be boiled off a molten surface and swept away by the stellar radiation, much like a comet’s tail when its orbit brings it close to the Sun. Artist concept of Kepler-10b. Credit: NASA/Kepler Mission/Dana Berry Check out the video description below

NASA’s Kepler planet hunting space telescope has made an historic discovery by finding its first rocky planet – and it’s simultaneously the smallest planet ever found beyond our solar system. The exoplanet, dubbed Kepler-10b, measures barely 1.4 times the diameter of Earth and orbits its star in less than one earth day. Therefore the planet is located well outside the habitable zone and is far too close to the star for liquid water to exist. It is Earth-sized but not Earth-like with respect to the search for life. The finding of such a small and rocky world marks a major milestone for Keplers scientific capabilities in finding another world like our own.

Indeed the scorching hot planet orbits so close to its parent star – once every 0.84 days – that the surface is molten and temperatures exceed 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than lava flows here on Earth. Kepler-10b is 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun. Its density is similar to that of an iron dumbbell.

Check out the amazing video below narrated by Natalie Batalha, Kepler’s deputy science team lead from NASA’s Ames Research Center which describes Kepler’s exciting discovery of the smallest exoplanet known to date – some 560 light years from Erath. (…) Read the rest of Kepler Discovers Its Smallest and First Rocky Planet (1,114 words)

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(C) Ken Kremer for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | 6 comments | Add to del.icio.us Post

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