Friday, August 27, 2010

NASA's big news: first confirmed multiplanet system

Well, NASA promised a big announcement for Thursday. It was scientifically important, but I'm not sure it rated the hype. The Kepler space telescope had identified what NASA researchers called the first confirmed multiplanet system (two planets so far, both gas giants) outside our own. The impact was blunted a little bit by European scientists announcing earlier in the week that ground-based telescopes had identified a multiplanet system. Also, once astronomers began discovering exoplanets (400+ at last count), the public naturally assumed these were not all one-planet systems and discovery of a multiplanet system was inevitable. None of this is meant to put down the important work being done by the Kepler team, just to note I'd hoped for more. There may be more: Kepler scientists report they have a third signature from that system that may prove to be another planet, this one a rocky world only about 1.5 Earth diameters.

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