A hug milestone in the quest by astronomers to discover Earth-like planets outside our solar system took a whole new step this week. The smallest exoplanet yet has been discovered, that lies beyond our solar system.
The planet named Keplar 10b has a diameter 1.41 times that of Earth and its mass density is 4.62 higher. Keplar 10b, however is so close to its sun that it would not be possible for it to support life. The planet was spotted by the Keplar telescope team and announced at its annual conference in Seattle, Washington.
The planet was spotted some 562 light years away. Hundreds of other planets, many of which could be ‘goldilocks’ type planets were spotted at around the same time. A Goldilock planet is an exoplanet which lies just far away enough from its sun to support the possibility of life and not too away from that sun to be too cold.
Keplar looks for planets by using a transiting method. This involves looking at a star and then watching to see if any object passes in front of it, in other words a small planet. Only a very small fraction of light would be covered but this is enough for astronomers to detect the possibility of an object, such as a planet, orbiting around that star in the same way planets orbit our own star, the sun.