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Updated Kepler catalog contains 219 new exoplanet candidates

21 June 2017 Stephen Clark

Scientists have published a catalog of exoplanet discoveries made by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, identifying 219 previously-unknown planet candidates circling stars elsewhere in the galaxy, including 10 would-be worlds that appear to be about the same size of Earth with temperatures potentially hospitable for life.

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Mini-flares potentially jeopardise habitability of planets circling red dwarf stars

11 June 2017 Astronomy Now

Cool dwarf stars are hot targets for exoplanet hunting right now. The discoveries of planets in the habitable zones of the TRAPPIST-1 and LHS 1140 systems, for example, suggest that Earth-sized worlds might circle billions of red dwarf stars, the most common type of star in our galaxy. But, like our own sun, many of these stars erupt with intense flares. Are red dwarfs really as friendly to life as they appear, or do these flares make the surfaces of any orbiting planets inhospitable?

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Astronomers find planet hotter than most stars

7 June 2017 Astronomy Now

A newly discovered Jupiter-like world is so hot, it’s being vaporized by its own star. With a dayside temperature of more than 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit, KELT-9b is a planet that is hotter than most stars. But its blue A-type star, called KELT-9, is even hotter — in fact, it is probably unraveling the planet through evaporation.

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‘Warm Neptune’ has unexpectedly primitive atmosphere

15 May 2017 Astronomy Now

A study combining observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes reveals that the distant planet HAT-P-26b has a primitive atmosphere composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. Located about 437 light-years away, HAT-P-26b orbits a star roughly twice as old as the Sun.

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Possible Venus twin discovered around dim star

11 April 2017 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using NASA’s Kepler space telescope have found a planet 219 light-years away that seems to be a close relative to Venus. This newly discovered world is only slightly larger than Earth and orbits a low-temperature star called Kepler-1649 that’s one-fifth the diameter of our Sun.