"We definitely think it's one step closer to finding a true Sun–Earth analogue," says study co-author Elisa Quintana, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and at the nearby NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field. But because the star that the exoplanet orbits is a cool, dim one unlike the Sun, Quintana and her colleagues consider the planet more of a cousin to Earth than a twin.
Peering into the far reaches of the solar system, astronomers have spied a pink frozen world 7½ billion miles from the sun.
It's the second such object to be discovered in a region of space beyond Pluto long considered a celestial wasteland. Until now, the lone known resident in this part of the solar system was an oddball dwarf planet spotted in 2003 named Sedna after the mythological Inuit goddess who created the sea creatures of the Arctic.
The Milky Way is teeming with billions of planets, including many that are similar to our own. But how many of these alien worlds have water, and do any host extraterrestrial life?
No answers to those questions just yet. But astronomers using a new infrared technique say they've discovered water vapor in the atmosphere of a nearby gas giant planet called "tau Boötis b."
The finding suggests that the technique may play an important role in identifying which exoplanets might be hospitable for life.
Astronomers have discovered an alien planet that wobbles at such a dizzying rate that its seasons must fluctuate wildly.
Throughout all of the planet's fast-changing seasons, however, no forecast would be friendly to humans. The warm planet is a gassy super-Neptune that orbits too close to its two parent stars to be in its system's "habitable zone," the region where temperatures would allow liquid water, and perhaps life as we know it, to exist.