Scientists confirm third-nearest star with a planet—and it’s rocky like Earth

MAROON-X instrument built by UChicago team measures its first planet, Gliese 486 b, which is located just over two dozen light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Virgo, and is also made out of rock—though it is hotter and three times larger than our home.

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Are we alone in the universe? UAH’s Dr. Gary Zank doesn’t think so

Are we alone in the universe? Research by Dr. Gary Zank at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, and collaborators from UAH and other institutions has helped to inform the search for planets that could harbor life.

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Hubble Pins Down Weird Exoplanet with Far-Flung Orbit

Astronomers analyzing Hubble images of the double star, HD 106906, have discovered a planet in a huge 15,000-year-long orbit that sweeps it as far from its stellar duo as Planet Nine would be from our Sun. This is observational evidence that similarly far-flung worlds may exist around other stars. Researchers hypothesize that the planet wound up there in a game of planetary pinball where the gravitational pull of a passing star modified the orbit’s shape.

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Astronomers develop model for the distribution of inner planetary systems

Data from the Kepler space telescope, launched more than a decade ago, is still helping astronomers who study planets outside of our own solar system — exoplanets — and unravel the mysteries of planetary systems. Initially, astronomers were surprised that Kepler found so many exoplanets, including hundreds of planetary systems with multiple planets orbiting close to their host star. As astronomers developed models to explain the abundance of inner exoplanets, they encountered a new mystery: “Why did Kepler detect just one planet around so many stars, instead of planetary systems with multiple planets?”

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The Strange Orbits of ‘Tatooine’ Planetary Disks

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have found striking orbital geometries in protoplanetary disks around binary stars. While disks orbiting the most compact binary star systems share very nearly the same plane, disks encircling wide binaries have orbital planes that are severely tilted. These systems can teach us about planet formation in complex environments.

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