News about weird and bizarre happenings from around the world.

Monday, 4 January 2010

NASA's Kepler probe finds five strange new planets

In what astronomers called an exciting step toward detecting Earth-like planets, a spacecraft operated by NASA's Ames Research Center has found five strange new planets, beginning to reveal how the structure of our solar system fits into the rest of the universe.

The five planets announced Monday by scientists working on the Kepler probe are an exotic bunch, one with a density as light as styrofoam. The large planets orbit so close to their stars that they may glow with the heat of a blast furnace, as hot as the melting point of iron.

"It's certainly no place to look for life," said Bill Borucki, the principal investigator with the Kepler mission at Ames. "That will be coming later."

Launched in March, the 2,300-pound spacecraft detects the transit of a planet across the star's face. These are the first new planets found by the probe.

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