NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft probe has made the first visit to Pluto, speeding past at 14km or 8.7 miles per second!!
New Horizons’ flyby of 2,370km-wide Pluto is a key moment in the history of space exploration. This was a historic mission because it marks the fact that every planet in that system – from Mercury through to Pluto – has now been visited at least once by a space probe!
It’s not like aliens put up a welcome banner or anything, but scientists now have newly identified at least one planet that could potentially sustain life.
The European Southern Observatory has just announced the discovery of more than 50 new exoplanets (planets outside our solar system), including 16 super-Earths (planets whose mass is between one and 10 times that of our own planet).
One of these planets in particular could theoretically be home to life if conditions are right. It’s called HD 85512 b, and scientists say it’s about 3.6 times the mass of the Earth. This planet is about 35 light years from Earth. Its location with respect to its star suggests that this planet could have liquid water under certain circumstances.
Don’t get too excited, though; there’s a lot more work to be done to explore whether this planet is truly fit for life, in addition to whether there are alien life forms there.
Though the energy released is not heading directly at the Earth, it may cause some atmospheric disturbance on Wednesday or Thursday night, enough to cause some spectacular auroras and possibly disrupt some satellites, NASA reports.
While NASA continues to search for more rocky planets outside of the solar system, they’re also still searching for Earth-like planets here in our own backyard. For example, Cygnus is one of our closest neighbors, from a galactic sense, and NASA has deployed the Kepler Space Telescope to study the Milky Way galaxy. As it turns out, the Kepler Space Telescope is pretty good; NASA has discovered 1200 rocky exoplanets in the constellation Cygnus, including 58 planets with Earth-like life-friendly orbits.
There’s only one problem: now you have to tell which exoplanets are simply rocks and which are actual planets.
Kepler basically measures how many objects of a certain size cross in front of the face of the star. Given Kepler has an accuracy rating of nearly 80 percent according to CalTech, it’s likely that most of these discoveries are actually planets, which means that Earth-like planet systems may be pretty common.
You can read more about the new discovery on CNN.com or click on the link below: