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Exoplanet Blog

Distant photo of Earth from space

Is Earth an Oddball?

4 min read

One of the strangest things in the cosmos might be – us. Among the thousands of planets confirmed to be in orbit around other stars, we’ve found nothing quite like our home planet. Other planets in Earth’s size range? Sure,…

Article5 years ago
David Latham, a senior astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, with the HARPS-N spectrograph, which measures the masses of exoplanets.

The Planet Hunter and the ‘Unseen Giant’

6 min read

It was March 1988, and astronomer David Latham was working into the night, puzzling over an odd result from an experimental instrument at Harvard’s Oak Ridge Observatory in Massachusetts. At the time, planets around other stars were an unproven –…

Article5 years ago
Artist's conception of past and present Milky Way Galaxy

Our Milky Way Galaxy: How Big is Space?

4 min read

When we talk about the enormity of the cosmos, it’s easy to toss out big numbers – but far more difficult to wrap our minds around just how large, how far, and how numerous celestial bodies really are. To get…

Article5 years ago
Illustration that compares sizes of various categories of exoplanets

Weird Worlds? Yes — by the Trillion

4 min read

A trip down the list of exoplanets found so far is a wild ride. These planets beyond our solar system, whether orbiting other stars or floating freely between them, can make the planets closer to home look tame by comparison.…

Article5 years ago
Artist's conception of Scholz's star, and its brown dwarf companion (foreground), during a flyby of our solar system some 70,000 years ago.

A passing star: our Sun’s near miss

4 min read

Stars jostling around the galaxy aren’t quite like a cosmic game of pool. But they do have occasional near misses as they speed past each other. Back when spears and stone points were the height of human technology, astronomers say,…

Article5 years ago
Nick Siegler, the chief technologist for NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program, at Western Australia's Shark Bay. The dark, rounded forms in the background are stromatolites, one of Earth's most ancient lifeforms.

A Trip to the Outback – and to Earth’s Early Life

2 min read

by Nick Siegler, chief technologist, NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program This past July I joined a group of geologists, geochemists, microbiologists, and fellow astronomers on a tour of some of the best-preserved evidence for early life. Entitled the Astrobiology Grand Tour,…

Article6 years ago
A visualization of exoplanets -- the small, black dots -- transiting the faces of their host stars.

Exoplanet in the corner pocket: a recount for thousands of worlds

5 min read

by Pat Brennan,NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program First they rolled in one by one, those newly discovered planets, like billiard balls pushed across a table. Counting them was easy. Then they came in handfuls. Still quite manageable; as ground-based observatories began…

Article6 years ago
Illustration of spacecraft, distant star and lava planet.

NASA’s next planet-hunting mission: 5 reasons TESS is going to be awesome

4 min read

by Elisa Quintana, astrophysicist,NASA Goddard Space Flight Center The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), scheduled to launch on April 16, is NASA’s next mission to search for exoplanets – planets outside our solar system. It will look for small planets…

Article6 years ago
A NASA visualization of the gas giant, Gamma Cephei A b, also known as "Tadmor."

The planet that wasn’t there (Oh, wait, it was)

3 min read

by Pat Brennan A massive gas giant more weighty than Jupiter, orbiting an orange star some 45 light years away, might be the most important exoplanet you’ve never heard of. The planet, called Gamma Cephei A b – “Tadmor” for…

Article6 years ago
Artist's rendering of potentially habitable exoplanets, plus Earth (top right) and Mars (top center).

‘All these worlds are yours’

4 min read

Exoplanets transform our view of the galaxy — and ourselves by Pat Brennan Look deeply enough into the night sky, and you’ll soon see how radically the universe has changed. You might have to borrow some space-based spyglasses – NASA’s Kepler, Spitzer or Hubble space…

Article7 years ago
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