27 March 2013
Our Planet, Our Universe
NASA scientists have broken the record for the smallest planet beyond our solar system! The newly-found planet, Kepler 37b, is rocky and only slightly larger than our moon at a mere 3865 kilometers in diameter. It is hellishly hot—it’s so close to its host star that it has a 13-day orbit. This planet may be tiny, but it’s making a big splash in the realms of science!
Kepler 37b’s host star, Kepler 37, is one of about 150,000 stars being watched by the space-based Kepler Observatory every minute of every day. The mission was launched in 2009 to look for Earth-sized planets positioned in “habitable zones” where liquid water, believed to be necessary for life, can exist on their surfaces. In the beginning, the Kepler team could only find large planets similar in size to Jupiter and Neptune. However, the recent success in finding small planets like Kepler 37b is indicative of amazing technological achievements.