Data confirm 41 more exoplanets

Aug. 24, 2012 at 5:21 PM
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GREENBELT, Md., Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Analysis of data from NASA's Kepler space telescope has verified 41 new exoplanets in 20 distant star systems, astronomers say.

The results increase the number of Kepler's confirmed planets to 116 hosted in 67 systems, more than half of which contain more than one planet, the space agency reported.

The planets, ranging from Earth-size to more than seven times the radius of Earth, generally orbit stars so closely they are hot, inhospitable worlds, scientists said.

In such systems the gravitational pull of the planets causes "tugs" acceleration or deceleration of a planet along its orbit, which forces the orbital period of each planet to change from one orbit to the next, they said.

"These systems, with their large gravitational interactions, give us important clues about how planetary systems form and evolve," said lead researcher Jason Steffen of the Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics in Batavia, Ill.

"This information helps us understand how our own solar system fits into the population of all planetary systems."

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