Astronomers only somewhat recently confirmed the existence of planets orbiting other stars like our own — in 1995. Since then, we’ve found nearly 2,000 exoplanets, and we’re honing in on more Earth-like planets that look like our own little world. Amateur astronomers have helped to identify a few exoplanets, and it looks like we’ll be able to find more and more of them. “You and I probably won’t be travelling to these planets – but our children’s children’s children could be.”
- The Kepler Space Telescope has found a ‘Earth 2.0’ exoplanet (now called Kepler-452b) that’s less than twice the size of Earth and orbits its star every 385 days in a ‘habitable’ zone. Only 12 exoplanets of this size/type have been found so far, and Kepler-452b is the only exoplanet we’ve seen so far circling a star very similar to our own Sun. [url]
- Super-Earth exoplanets might not be suitable for life as we know it because the surface of such huge rocky planets would not have the same kind of plate tectonics that drives our carbon cycle. However, there’s still a lot we don’t know about planetary geology. Venus is just a slightly smaller planet than our own, and no one is quite sure why it exhibits no plate tectonics. [url]
- Amateur astronomy can be quite amazing: a guy (David Schneider) used a common DSLR camera and some home-built equipment and managed to verify the observation of an exoplanet around a star (HD 189733) about 63 light years away in the constellation of Vulpecula. Schneider didn’t discover this exoplanet (he knew it was there already), but this kind of ingenuity could lead to some really cool amateur astronomy projects. [url]
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