Monday, December 5, 2011

Exoplanets: Over 700 Found to Date; Latest Batch of 18 are Jupiter-Size

"New Batch of Giant Alien Worlds Found"
Discovery News (December 3, 2011)

"A new haul of 18 Jupiter-sized gas giant planets have been detected orbiting stars bigger than our sun, according to a release by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

"The find boosts the number of known planets circling huge stars by 50 percent. Studying the newly found planets could also help astronomers better understand how planets -- including ones in our own solar system -- form and grow.

"The new batch of alien worlds was announced on the heels of another recent discovery of 50 newly found planets from another team of astronomer, bringing the list of identified alien planets well past 700...."

That's a lot of planets. A whole lot more than the eight, or nine, or ten, in the Solar system. There's been debate over just what a "planet" is; and it looks like there may be undiscovered planets, or dwarf planets, or whatever the things wind up being called, in the outer Solar system. (January 5, 2010)

Exoplanet Count Tops 700? You Ain't Seen Nuthin' Yet!

"...The Kepler space telescope has so far identified more than 1,200 possible planets, though most of those have not yet been confirmed...."
(Discovery News)

There's no way for the Lemming to know what fraction of those 1,200 Kepler 'possibles' will turn out to be exoplanets. It's a big number of 'maybes,' and like Discovery News said: that's the count "so far." Exciting times.

At least, that's how the Lemming sees it. Your experience may vary.

Meanwhile, Back on Earth - - -

This latest batch of 18 planets orbiting other stars didn't get discovered by the Kepler orbital observatory. Astronomers working down on Earth found them. The article said that the initial observations were at Keck Observatory in Hawaii, with follow-up work done at McDonald and Faiborn Observatories in Texas and Arizona.

The astronomers were looking at about 300 stars. Back to the article, again:

"...They zeroed-in on stars that are more than one and a half times more massive than the sun....

"...the team found 18 planets with masses similar to Jupiter's.

"The researchers say that the findings lend further support to the theory that planets grow from seed particles that accumulate gas and dust in a disk surrounding a newborn star...."
(Discovery News)

That's not going to help anybody buy a winning lottery ticket, or help some team win the next Super Bowl. It won't even help the Lemming finish a report that has nothing to do with this blog. And the Lemming is wandering off-topic.

For folks who like to know how the universe works, data that supports "...the theory that planets grow from seed particles..." is important. Data that doesn't support that theory is important. And data that flatly won't fit in the theory would be really exciting: because then, we'd know that there's a whole new set of things to learn about.

As for practical applications: It's the Lemming's opinion that it will be some time before humanity starts building planetary systems from scratch. And that's another topic.

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