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Early Kepler Results Today

The American Astronomical Society’s 215th national meeting will involve some 3,500 attendees, with more than 2,200 scientific presentations on the program, but this morning the buzz is all about Kepler and the early results to be announced today. William Borucki (NASA Ames) spoke at 0830 to announce the first planets discovered by Kepler, five exoplanets (none smaller than Neptune), that include what appears to be a highly irradiated ‘Neptune’ and a second planet (Kepler 7b) that is the least dense world ever discovered, with a density similar to styrofoam. It, along with three other new exoplanets, gives us insight into planets with densities substantially lower than what we expect from gas giants.

Borucki also described another unusual find, Jupiter-sized objects that are hotter than the stars they orbit. A live stream from the AAS is available here, and a Twitter stream at #aas. The paper from Borucki et al. will be published online by Science on Thursday January 7. Later today, the session that’s getting the early attention is ‘Kepler Early Science,’ which begins at 1300 EST at the conference site in Washington DC. The relevant presentations:

Kepler: Exoplanets & More
William J. Borucki (NASA Ames)
[101.01: Kepler Planet Detection Mission: Introduction and First Results]

“Hot Jupiters” & Exoplanet Formation
Dimitar D. Sasselov (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)
[317.07: Kepler Results for Previously Known Planets: the HAT-P-11
Planet System]

Closing In on Exo-Earths
Natalie Batalha (San Jose State Univ.)
[305.06: Characteristics of the Kepler Target Stars; 317.01: The
Kepler Follow-Up Observation Program]

Stellar Good Vibrations
Ronald L. Gilliland (STScI)
[305.04: The Kepler Short Cadence Data and Applications for
Asteroseismology and Transit Light Curves]

Kepler’s Legacy
Caty Pilachowski (Indiana Univ.)

We’ll know a lot more about all these topics after 1300 today, when Kepler scientists will present a news briefing on their finds. We’ll cover the results of that on Centauri Dreams tomorrow — I had hoped to write the briefing up this afternoon but I’m slammed all day after noon and won’t be able to get back to work on this until late in the evening.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Terraformer (that's my title, my name's Tobias Holbrook) January 4, 2010, 12:22

    “Borucki also described another unusual find, Jupiter-sized objects that are hotter than the stars they orbit. ”
    Eh? Brown dwarfs orbiting close in to their primaries?

    I heard they had something that would ‘blow your socks off’. Shame.

  • andy January 4, 2010, 17:47

    Tobias: looks like the presentation where the “hot compact objects” were announced occurred after the press conference. I’d guess these correspond to very undermassive white dwarfs produced as the result of mass transfer in binary star systems, but obviously this is just speculation at the moment.

  • nate January 4, 2010, 20:46

    it’s amazing to me that planets still “stick together” at styrofoam level densities. any clue as to what it’s made of?

  • Dave January 4, 2010, 23:46

    Tobias, that’s what I’ve heard too. Maybe they’re waiting on verification before they announce those “blow your socks off” discoveries?

  • Nathan Currier January 5, 2010, 0:30

    Could be a ringed white dwarf- maybe a planet got too close to it. That would explain it blocking more light than would be expected for a white dwarf, while still being hotter than the main star.

  • David January 5, 2010, 1:54

    Nate, it is very likely to be a gas giant.

  • forrest noble January 5, 2010, 2:22

    It will be interesting to see if Kepler or any infra-red telemetry in the next five years will find other large planets, brown or black dwarfs with possible orbiting planets/ moons, in our outer solar system. Gravitational flux could provide heat for such a system.

  • Terraformer (given name = Tobias Holbrook, getting my digital paper trail up) January 5, 2010, 6:50

    Hydrogen, much like Saturn, but a lower mass, hence less compression and lower density?

  • andy January 5, 2010, 18:18

    Just goes to show that expressing disappointments over yields of hot Jupiters is premature: these are planets very different from anything we see in our solar system, and despite the large numbers known, we are still only scratching the surface of the diversity of this class of planets.