Exoplanets are Hot! Travel plans and 1 Million new Destinations!

NASA is sure to start selling trips to these fabulous space destinations! The only problem is that we have no way of getting there, or more importantly, back home.  Still the posters give a great homage to the ‘see America’ posters of the 1920s, and they sure make me want to visit.

Kepler 186f is a habitable zone planet around a red dwarf star, meaning it could support liquid water.  If any plant life forms on this planet, it would photosynthesize differently, potentially giving it a red colour palette.

HD 403007g is a planet with 8 times the mass of Earth.  It may have a rocky core beneath a thick gaseous atmosphere.  This means it could kill you in two ways:  You could be crushed by the immense gravity (depending on how big it actually is), or the dense atmosphere would suffocate you.  Isn’t space fun!?!

Ah Kepler 16b, with its two suns, you would have two sunsets, and two shadows.  You would think it would be warmer having twice the star we have, but its distance gives it roughly a chilly -100 degree Celcius temperature.  Not a fun place to visit for long.  Still, your shadows would be cool.

In other amazing planetary news, a NASA crowd-sourced  project, diskdetective.org, has reached a milestone of 1 Million potential planetary disks identified! Citizens of the world have discovered them by looking at data from the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).  Wise has data on 745 Million objects, the largest survey of the sky in mid-infrared wavelengths.

So how do they find planets? Well participants in Disk Detective aren’t looking for planets per-se, rather they are attempting to identify if the star has a dusty disk.  Because the WISE data is taken at an infrared wavelength of 22 Microns, disks of rock and dust around a star make the star appear brighter than it would at visible wavelengths.  By helping to identify disks in WISE objects, Astronomers have a subset of the data they can focus on with the hopes of finding Millions of new planetary systems.

The site is now translated into 8 different languages and has had 28,000 visitors from around the world.  The research team behind the site is hoping to have 3 Million disks identified by the time the program wraps up in 2018.

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