Digging Through Kepler Data Turns Up a Near Twin of Jupiter

The exoplanet, K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb, is almost identical to Jupiter in terms of its mass and its distance from its sun was discovered using data obtained in 2016 by NASA's Kepler space telescope. The exoplanetary system is twice as distant as any seen previously by Kepler, which found over 2,700 confirmed planets before ceasing operations in 2018. Image Credit: Specht et al. 2022.

NASA’s Kepler planet-hunting spacecraft was deactivated in November 2018, about ten years after it launched. The mission detected over 5,000 candidate exoplanets and 2,662 confirmed exoplanets using the transit method. But scientists are still working with all of Kepler’s data, hoping to uncover more planets in the observations.

A team of researchers have announced the discovery of one more planet in the Kepler data, and this one is nearly a twin of Jupiter.

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A Machine-Learning Algorithm Just Found 301 Additional Planets in Kepler Data

Artist's concept of the Kepler mission with Earth in the background. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Artist's concept of the Kepler mission with Earth in the background. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Looking to the future, astronomers are excited to see how machine learning – aka. deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) – will enhance surveys. One field that is already benefitting in the search for extrasolar planets, where researchers rely on machine-learning algorithms to distinguish between faint signals and background noise. As this field continues to transition from discovery to characterization, the role of machine intelligence is likely to become even more critical.

Take the Kepler Space Telescope, which accounted for 2879 confirmed discoveries (out of the 4,575 exoplanets discovered made to date) during its nearly ten years of service. After examining the data collected by Kepler using a new deep-learning neural network called ExoMiner, a research team at NASA’s Ames Research Center was able to detect 301 more planetary signals and add them to the growing census of exoplanets.

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Rocky Planet Found With Only Half the Mass of Venus

When it comes to finding exoplanets, size matters, but so does weight.  The larger and heavier the planet, the more likely they will be discovered by the current crop of telescopes.  Both the techniques to find exoplanets and the telescopes using those techniques are biased toward larger, heavier planets.  So when even the current crop of telescopes manages to find one that is about half the mass of Venus, it is cause for celebration.  That is precisely the size of the planet a team from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope has found orbiting a star called L98-59.

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Multiple Earth-Mass Rogue Planets Have Been Discovered Drifting Through the Milky Way

Last year we reported on how the Roman Space Telescope’s backers hoped it would be able to detect rogue planets using a technique called “microlensing”.  Now, a team led by Iain McDonald, then at the University of Manchester, beat them to the punch by finding a few examples of Earth-sized rogue planets using data from an already aging space telescope – Kepler.

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There are Planets So Close to Their Stars That They Have Magma Oceans 100km Deep and Winds that Go 8000 km/h

Artist's impression of a Lava World. The exoplanet K2-141b is so close to its host star that it likely has magma oceans and surface temperatures over 3000 degrees. c. ESO

200 light years away, “super earth” exoplanet K2-141b orbits a star so closely that its “year” is only 7 hours long. Not its day…its YEAR! K2-141b orbits a mere million kilometers from the fiery surface of its star. Earth is 150 million km from our Sun. Even Mercury, the planet closest to our Sun, is never less than 47 million km. Standing on the surface of K2-141b you’d look up at an orange star that filled fifty degrees of the sky appearing a hundred times wider than our Sun appears in Earth’s sky. It would be a giant blazing orb so bright that its light shines two thirds of the way around the entire planet unlike Earth’s two day/night halves. Of course, the surface you’re standing on wouldn’t be much of a surface at all – it would be an ocean of liquid hot magma.

Artist’s impression of a close orbiting exoplanet around a star. c. ESO
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The Search for Superhabitable Planets. Worlds Even More Habitable Than Earth

Kepler-22b, seen in this artist's rendering, is a planet a bit larger than Earth that orbits in the habitable zone of its star. Some researchers think there might be "superhabitable" worlds that may not resemble Earth. c. NASA

REMINDER: – Universe Today will be hosting an interview with Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch, co-author of the research featured in this article, on Thursday October 15th, 2020 at 8:30am PT. Click the video below to watch live or to see the recorded stream afterward

Out Earthing Earth

What planet is this?

c. NASA

If you said Hoth, that’s a good guess. But, it’s actually Earth depicted in one of two known “snowball” states. The entire planet’s surface was locked beneath glacial ice during the Cryogenian Period 650 million years ago and during the Huronian Glaciation 2 – 2.4 billion years ago.

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There’s No Chemical Difference Between Stars With or Without Planets

Orion Nebula - Closest Star Forming Region to Earth c Cimone - Trottier Observatory

Strange New Worlds

Imagine if a star could tell you it had planets. That would be really helpful because finding planets orbiting distant stars – exoplanets – is hard. We found Neptune, the most distant planet in our own solar system, in 1846. But we didn’t have direct evidence of a planet around ANOTHER star until….1995.…149 years later. Think about that. Any science fiction you watched or read that was written before 1995 which depicted travel to exoplanets assumed that other planets even existed. Star Trek: The Next Generation aired its last season in 1994. We didn’t even know if Vulcan was out there. (Now we do!…sortof)

Jupiter (right bright point) and Saturn (left bright point) seen here against the Milky Way were the most distant planets we could see before inventing telescopes – C. Matthew Cimone
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1 in 10 Red Giants are Covered in Spots, and They Rotate Surprisingly Quickly

Artist's impression of a red giant star. If the star is in a binary pair, what happens to its sibling? Credit:NASA/ Walt Feimer

Sunspots are common on our Sun. These darker patches are cooler than their surroundings, and they’re caused by spikes in magnetic flux that inhibit convection. Without convection, those areas cool and darken.

Lots of other stars have sunspots, too. But Red Giants (RGs) don’t. Or so astronomers thought.

A new study shows that some RGs do have spots, and that they rotate faster than thought.

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Astronomers Estimate There Are 6 Billion Earth-Like Planets in the Milky Way

Meet Kepler-22b, an exoplanet with an Earth-like radius in the habitable zone of its host star. Unfortunately its mass remains unknown. Image Credit: NASA

Six billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way? If true, that’s astounding. But the number needs some context.

The Milky Way has up 400 billion stars. So even if there are six billion Earth-like planets, they’re still spread far and wide throughout our vast galaxy.

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Extremely Hot Exoplanets Can Have Extreme Weather, Like Clouds of Aluminum Oxide and Titanium Rain

An illustration of a Hot Jupiter orbiting close to its star. Image Credit: ESA/ATG medialab, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Thanks to the success of the Kepler mission, we know that there are multitudes of exoplanets of a type called “Hot Jupiters.” These are gas giants that orbit so close to their stars that they reach extremely high temperatures. They also have exotic atmospheres, and those atmospheres contain a lot of strangeness, like clouds made of aluminum oxide, and titanium rain.

A team of astronomers has created a cloud atlas for Hot Jupiters, detailing which type of clouds and atmospheres we’ll see when we observe different Hot Jupiters.

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