50 new planets found
have discovered at least 50 new planets beyond the solar system,
including 16 that are of a size similar to Earth, a media report
The biggest planet of the new batch is named "HD 85512 b". It is
3.6 times the mass of Earth and can be found 36 light years away
in the Vela constellation, the Daily Mail reported Tuesday. »
Forty thousand web users worldwide have been assisting astronomers
analyze light from 150,000 stars in hopes of finding earth-like or
exoplanets. Now the web users have discovered two such potential
Citizen scientists, under the project Planet Hunters launched last
December, analyzed real scientific data collected by NASA's Kepler
mission. The mission has been searching for planets beyond our own
solar system - called exoplanets, since its launch in March 2009.
The astronomers at the Yale University have announced the first
two potential exoplanets discovered by Planet Hunters users, the
journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society reports.
"This is the first time that the public has used data from a NASA
space mission to detect possible planets orbiting other stars,"
said Yale astronomer Debra Fischer, who helped launch the Planet
The candidate planets orbit their host stars with periods ranging
from 10 to 50 days - much shorter than the 365 days it takes the
Earth to orbit the Sun - and have radii that range in size from
two-and-a-half to eight times the Earth's radius, according to a
Despite those differences, one of the two candidates could be a
rocky planet similar to the size of the Earth (as opposed to a
giant gas planet like Jupiter), although they aren't in the
so-called "habitable zone" where water and therefore life as we
know it, could exist.
Next, the Planet Hunters team used the W.M. Keck Observatory in
Hawaii to analyze the host stars.
"I think there's a 95 percent chance or greater that these are
bona fide planets," Fischer said.
"These. . . candidates might have gone undetected without Planet
Hunters and its citizen scientists," said Meg Schwamb, Yale
researcher and Planet Hunters co-founder.
"Obviously Planet Hunters doesn't replace the analysis being done
by the Kepler team. But it has proven itself to be a valuable tool
in the search for other worlds," added Schwamb.