Posted tagged ‘Milky Way’

5 Earth-Sized Planets Found in Milky Way

February 3, 2011

NASA scientists have announced that the Kepler space telescope has spotted five planets about the size of Earth, orbiting stars in the Milky Way.

Man! That must have been hard on their teeth! Oh wait…the Milky Way Galaxy. Whew!

From CNN:

These planets are orbiting in what is known as the habitable zone, which puts them at a distance from their suns where liquid water could exist. Liquid water is a key ingredient for life to form.

“In a generation we have gone from extraterrestrial planets being a mainstay of science fiction, to the present, where Kepler has helped turn science fiction into today’s reality,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

The Kepler science team also announced the telescope found six planets, all larger than Earth, orbiting a single sun-like star.

Green Comet Wows Stargazers

February 18, 2009

A strange, greenish backward-flying comet is speeding past Earth this month, as it takes its only trip toward the sun from the farthest edges of the solar system.

From the Associated Press:

The comet is called Lulin, and there’s a chance it can be seen with the naked eye — far from city lights, astronomers say. But you’ll most likely need a telescope, or at least binoculars, to spot it.

The best opportunity is just before dawn one-third of the way up the southern sky. It should be near Saturn and two bright stars, Spica and Regula.

On Monday at 10:43 p.m. EST, it will be 38 million miles from Earth, the closest it will ever get, according to Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object program.

The story behind the comet is more intriguing than its appearance — the greenish tinge may be hard for many to discern. The color comes from a type of carbon and cyanogen, a poisonous gas.

Lulin was discovered by a Chinese teenager two years ago. It still has many of its original gases — gases that are usually stripped away as comets near the sun. Unlike most comets viewable from Earth, this one hasn’t been this close to the sun before, Yeomans said.

While all the planets and most of the other objects in the solar system circle the sun counterclockwise, Lulin circles clockwise, said NASA astronomer Stephen Edberg. And thanks to an optical illusion, from Earth it appears as if the comet’s tail is in the front as the comet approaches Earth and the sun.

“It essentially is going backwards through the solar system,” he said.

It came from the outskirts of the solar system, 18 trillion miles away. Once it’s made the journey around the sun, Lulin will gain enough speed to escape the solar system, Edberg said.

“If you are interested in comets, make sure you see it,” he said. “But it’s not going to be a real great blast for the general public.”