The number of planets we have found orbiting other stars has snowballed in recent years, thanks to discoveries by the Kepler spacecraft. Now, NASA's next missions toward understanding the Milky Way's abundant worlds are preparing for launch.
How big can an Earth-like planet be? Astronomers thought they had a pretty good handle on this question but have just been given a fresh example of how nature never ceases to outpace our imaginations and show us something unexpected.
Recently, a major milestone in space exploration was reached: a planet was captured in a picture! The big deal is that the planet captured in this shot, a gas giant planet named Beta Pictoris b, is 63 light years away--over 100,000 times farther away than even Pluto.
NASA researchers announce they've verified 715 new planets orbiting around 305 stars.
Let's take a moment to tally a few of 2013's highlights of astronomy and space exploration. In brief, it was a very good year on a number of fronts.
If you think the list of achievements of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is impressive, consider that its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will sport a mirror 21 feet across, with more than 20 times the light-collecting capability of its predecessor!