Wednesday, February 21, 2018

NASA announces 'mother lode' of new planets: 715

WASHINGTON — Our galaxy is looking far more crowded and hospitable. NASA on Wednesday confirmed a bonanza of 715 newly discovered planets outside our solar system.

Scientists using the planet-hunting Kepler telescope pushed the number of planets discovered in the galaxy to about 1,700. Twenty years ago, astronomers had not found any planets circling stars other than the ones revolving around our sun.

"We almost doubled just today the number of planets known to humanity," NASA planetary scientist Jack Lissauer said during a Wednesday teleconference, calling it "the big mother lode."

Astronomers used a new confirmation technique to come up with the largest single announcement of a batch of exoplanets — what planets outside our solar system are called.

While Wednesday's announcement was about big numbers, it also was about implications for life behind those big numbers.

All of the new planets are in systems like ours where multiple planets circle a star. The 715 planets came from looking at just 305 stars. They were nearly all in size closer to Earth than to gigantic Jupiter.

And four of the new exoplanets orbit their stars in "habitable zones" where it is not too hot and not too cold for liquid water, which is crucial for life to exist.

Douglas Hudgins, NASA's exoplanet exploration program scientist, called Wednesday's announcement a major step toward Kepler's ultimate goal: "finding Earth 2.0."

It's a big step in finding not just other Earths but "the possibility of life elsewhere," said Lisa Kaltenegger, a Harvard and Max Planck Institute astronomer who wasn't part of the discovery team.

The four new habitable zone planets are all at least twice as big as Earth, so that makes them more likely to be gas planets instead of rocky ones like Earth — and less likely to harbor life.

So far, Kepler has found nine exoplanets in habitable zones, NASA said. Astronomers expect to find more when they look at all four years of data collected by the now-crippled Kepler; so far, they have looked at two years' worth.

Planets in the habitable zones are likely to be farther out from their stars because it is hot close in. And planets farther out take more time orbiting, so Kepler had to wait longer to see them again.

Comments
CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CLEARWATER — The heads of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards will hold emergency meetings in the coming days to consider firing president and CEO Edward Peachey. Jack Geller, board chairman of CareerSource Pinellas, and Dick Peck, chairman of ...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Students, parents beg President Trump: Do something

Students, parents beg President Trump: Do something

WASHINGTON — Raw with grief, tears flowing, students and family from Parkland met Wednesday with President Donald Trump and implored him to lead the country into action on what has become a recurring national horror."We will not stop," the pres...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Hey Rays, this is no way to build a ballpark

Hey Rays, this is no way to build a ballpark

PORT CHARLOTTE _ It was another morning after at Charlotte Sports Park and Rays Bargain Clearance Barn.  This time it's Steven Souza, man of a thousand faces. He gone.What else is new at the incredible shrinking baseball team?It's spring trainin...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Why is this still happening? Douglas High students press Florida leaders for answers

Why is this still happening? Douglas High students press Florida leaders for answers

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School got a real-life lesson in the perils of high expectations Wednesday as they met with state legislators to discuss their promise of stricter gun laws and left disappointed that the progress that app...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Former Florida Rep. Robert Wallace jumps from Tampa overpass

Former Florida Rep. Robert Wallace jumps from Tampa overpass

TAMPA — Former Florida state Rep. Robert Wallace ended his life Monday night by jumping from a Dale Mabry Highway overpass, records show. He was 65.At least one witness saw Wallace plunge 40 to 50 feet onto Gunn Highway, according to a Hillsborough C...
Updated: 18 minutes ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Toymakers dive into toilet for poospiration; Rev. Billy Graham dies at 99; MS-13 sweep keeps most basic details secret; more in U.S. news

Toymakers dive into toilet for poospiration; Rev. Billy Graham dies at 99; MS-13 sweep keeps most basic details secret; more in U.S. news

New YorkDiving into toilet for poospirationToymakers have gone to the toilet for their latest creations. Mattel’s upcoming Flushin’ Frenzy game sends a brown plastic poop flying into the air. And its rival, Hasbro stuck with the potty humor after its...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Time line1918: Born into a strict Presbyterian family near Charlotte, N.C.1934: Accepts Christ at Charlotte revival by traveling evangelist Mordecai Ham.1936: Enrolls in Bob Jones College, Cleveland, Tenn.1937: Unhappy at Bob Jones, he enrolls in Flo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
At presidents’ sides

At presidents’ sides

Updated: 1 hour ago
Demands for action intensify at huge rally at Florida’s Capitol

Demands for action intensify at huge rally at Florida’s Capitol

TALLAHASSEE — Florida became the epicenter of an historic debate over gun violence Wednesday as a growing #Never Again movement seized the national spotlight to demand action a week after the massacre in Parkland.At a raucous two-hour rall...
Updated: 1 hour ago