Tuesday, May 29, 2007

28 newfound planets in Milky Way spur hunt for Earth look-alikes

Your Ad Here

All of a sudden the Milky Way is filling up with far-off solar systems never seen before -- more and more planets of all shapes and sizes, wheeling in orbits around their own sunlike stars.

Astronomers on teams from UC Berkeley and Australia reported the discovery of 28 new planets all at once on Monday, and their leader -- working through the night all this week at the world's biggest telescope in Hawaii -- is now on the hunt for rocky planets that might resemble Earth.

"An overarching question now is whether our own solar system is really alone," said Geoffrey Marcy, the Berkeley astronomer whose team has led in the discovery of what are now widely known as "exoplanets."

Marcy and many of his colleagues are in Honolulu for a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, and in telephone interviews and e-mails he said he and Katie Peek, 26, a Berkeley graduate student, are scanning 70 more stars right now to seek still more of the increasingly common objects.

"It's all most amazing and fascinating," Jason Wright, a Berkeley postdoctoral fellow, said in a telephone conversation. He and colleague John Asher Johnson described the group's findings in detail at the astronomy meeting.

The 28 planets they and their Anglo-Australian colleagues reported bring the total number of exoplanets discovered to 236 since the first one was detected barely a dozen years ago, and now the rush is on.

The two teams reporting Monday said that besides the 28 planets they discovered during the past year, they also found seven brown dwarfs -- huge and strange objects much larger than Jupiter that are called "failed stars" because they never grew to a size and mass big enough to turn on their nuclear fires and blaze forth as true stars.

Source : SFGate




Related Posts with Thumbnails

0 comments:

Search This Blog