August 13, 2012 12:20 pm
For the past two years, NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler satellite has consistently challenged our view of just how many planets there are out there. Vastly outnumbering the known planets that reside outside our solar system (of which there are nearly 800) are thousands of planet “candidates”—initial discoveries that aware awaiting confirmation.
They range in size from 1/3 to 84 times the radius of Earth. Colors represent an estimate of equilibrium temperature, ranging from 4,586 C at the hottest to -110 C at the coldest – red indicates warmest, and blue / indigo indicates coldest candidates.
He cautions that some of the potential planets seen here may turn out to not really be real planets. However, due to the way the Kepler satellite works—by watching for a faint dip in the light of a far away star, the sign of a planet blocking its path—there will likely only be more and more new planets added to the list as the satellite continues its quest.
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