Analytics, Astronomy

Kepler-22b

With the new Kepler telescope findings having hit the news-feeds this month, I thought I would post an update to my original data. The tally of Kepler planetary candidates now stands at 2,326, with one particularly noteworthy find: Kepler-22b. Also known as Kepler Object of Interest (KOI) 87.01, or Kepler Input Catalog ID 10593626, this planet deserves special attention, as it is one of the first confirmed planets that resides within the habitable zone of its star. At only 2.4 times Earth’s diameter, and with an orbital period of around 290 days, it seems to be a pretty close match to the Earth. The Kepler web-site has a nice article describing the planet, with the image below showing how it stacks up against the inner planets in our own solar system. NASA Mission Page – Kepler (image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech) After reading about the new planet, and trying to find the raw…

Astronomy

Earth as an Asteroid Target

Good news regarding the likelihood of getting hit by an asteroid: the estimated count of those bodies that cross Earth’s orbit has gone down. Although the probability that any one rock might hit us has always been very low, the calculation shrunk even further after data from the WISE spacecraft (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) was analyzed. The number shrunk by almost half (35,000 to 19,500). Finding small objects (less than about a mile across) is challenging because they’re not very bright to begin with, and past surveys have relied on visible light to see them. WISE uses heat (infrared radiation) emitted from the object, which doesn’t depend on how reflective the surface is. Since asteroid surface brightness varies across a wide range, it was difficult to determine how big each of them was (observations could be bright because the asteroid was large, or because it had a very high surface…