The Search for Exoplanets

It seems like another day goes by and there’s another discovery of more exoplanets!  On January 7, just one week into 2013, astronomers from the Kepler Mission Space Observatory announced the discovery of the latest exoplanet, the creatively named KOI-172.02.  At this stage it appears that KOI-172.02 is an Earth-like planet candidate orbiting a star similar to our own sun. It almost seems like old news when scientists announce the discovery of a planet orbiting another star in our galaxy!

As at January 15, 2013 a total of 859 such planets have been identified (details can be found here).  These are certainly exciting times for astronomers, but just how do astronomers search for exoplanets? Continue reading

New near Earth Exoplanet!!

Well this is exciting news!

Astronomers from Europe have found an Earth mass planet orbiting the Alpha Centauri system.  Not only is the planet in the closest system to Earth (Alpha Centauri is a meagre 4.3 light years away) but it’s also the lightest exoplanet found  orbiting a star similar to our own.

Researchers noted that “This is the first planet with a mass similar to Earth ever found around a star like the Sun. Its orbit is very close to its star and it must be much too hot for life as we know it.


A new exoplanet found in the Alpha Centauri system (Photo Courtesy of the ESO)

The planet was found using HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The ESO Press release can be found here.