Since the first extra-solar planet was found in 1992, we've made some decent progress in exploring other worlds out there, and may even be zeroing in on that "other Earth."
It's 600 light years from Earth, orbits a star very similar to our Sun in a period of about 290 days, and has a diameter about two and a half times that of Earth. What is it? It's the NASA Kepler mission's most recent exciting confirmed discovery, the extrasolar-planet Kepler 22B.
NASA's Kepler mission announces the results from its first four months of observations: 1235 possible planets around other stars!
Among the thousands of vivid and unique Earth-sized planets we have come to know through Science Fiction, NASA's Kepler mission has now given us our first real one: meet Kepler 10b.
It's been a little over a year since NASA's Kepler telescope was launched into space. It's mission: to stare unblinkingly at 156,000 stars in a patch of sky in the constellations Lyra and Cygnus on a quest to spot extrasolar planets transiting their stars. Results so far? As anticipated…astounding.
For several years there has been a lot of buzz about the detection of extra-solar planets, or exoplanets: planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. However, due to the limits in technology and observational capabilities, to date only large, gas giant planets orbiting close to the stars (so called "Hot Jupiters") have been found, with a possible exception or two.