Tiny planet found outside solar system

By Mariam Digges

Tiny planet found outside solar system
Astronomers have discovered a new planet right outside our solar system, the smallest of over 800 extra-solar planets.

It’s been almost two decades since the first planet outside out solar system was found. Since then, the discoveries have ramped up, sped up with the help of NASA’s Kepler telescope, which was introduced back in 2009. Kepler has aided the detection of 861 planets since then, and it was Kepler which detected this most recent planet.

The planet – which is about the size of our moon – has been named “absolutely mind-boggling” by astronomers. Smaller than Mercury – the tiniest of our solar system’s planets, the new planet has a surface temperature of 700 degree Fahrenheit, with no atmosphere or water present on its rocky surface. These factors blow any notion of life on it out of the water – or in this case – out of space.

Known as “Kepler-37b”, the planet orbits a star 210 light years away in a constellation called Lyra, along with two other planets in that solar system. 

Discoverer Thomas Barclay from the NASA Ames Research Center in Northern California and his team have been working for more than a year on confirming the planet-status of the new discovery, which had been believed to be a moon.

He and other scientists are eagerly on the hunt for an Earth-size planet that is in a so-called Goldilocks zone, meaning it isn’t not too hot nor too cold for water to exist there. And where there’s water, there is of course, the chance of life.

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