Kepler 10-b

Hi my fellow science junkies. I’m so sorry for such a long absence…this school semester has been crazy. Recently, I found myself at the ASNY Conference at the University of Rochester, where I witnessed a fascinating talk from Natalie Batalha, Kepler scientist and lead author of the paper discussing the discovery of the exoplanet Kepler 10-b. It was here that she discussed some of the details of this awesome exoplanet, which is the first confirmed rocky planet orbiting a star (I think we already confirmed one around a neutron star, but I could be wrong). Either way, it’s the Kepler satellite’s first confirmed rocky exoplanet.

First, a little background. An exoplanet is basically just a planet found outside of our own solar system (this means it orbits a different star). One of the biggest fields in astronomy today is the search for exoplanets, because our methods have gotten better and better, especially now with the invention of the Kepler Satellite. The Kepler mission is a revolutionary one, with one of its main goals being to figure out the frequency of planets like Earth in the “habitable zones” of stars. For more information on Kepler’s scientific goals and specifics, just go to the NASA site:

With Kepler, we’ve really upped the numbers of confirmed exoplanets, as well as planet candidates. Remember from the last entry I wrote that when we say “candidates”, we mean it hasn’t been officially confirmed yet. This is a HUGE detail in science that must always be remembered; the great thing about this entry is that we’re looking at a confirmed rocky planet! So we know it is definitely real, and what we think it is. There’s still a LOT to learn and confirm about this exoplanet, but so far, we’ve got quite a few intriguing details! Kepler and NASA have an awesome site to illustrate the properties and size of Kepler 10-b’s orbit and host star:

I’ll give you the highlights, for some good comparisons. First off, Kepler 10-b is roughly 3-5 times the mass of Earth, and has a radius of around 1.4 the size of Earth’s radius. So in terms of dimensions, we’re very similar! In fact, it also orbits a star very much like our Sun, about 560 light years away from us. But don’t get too excited about the possibility of life existing—the exoplanet is really close to its star. It’s also tidally locked, which means that one side of the exoplanet always faces the star, and the other side always faces away. This leads to a peculiar feature of the exoplanet—one side of it is so hot that it’s expected to be roughly 2500 degrees fahrenheit, which would cause it to glow! The surface is molten, so you can’t expect to find life on it. But the exoplanet is still really cool! Here’s a picture of what artists think Kepler 10-b may look like:

Photo courtesy of NASA






Remember, it’s only an artist’s rendition…we don’t really know what it looks like. But the fact that this exoplanet can be found in the first place is great news. Other exoplanets, that may look like Earth, can therefore be found. Kepler 10-b is the first milestone step in what may prove to be the most exciting human journey since the Apollo missions!

That’s all for now. Don’t forget to check up on Kepler as the months pass to see what new discoveries they have to show. And hopefully I’ll be able to find some more to time to write. Until next time!

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