In the pantheon of modern astronomical explorers, the Kepler Space Telescope ranks right near the top, uncovering more than 1,200 worlds outside our solar system while staring at just a small fraction of the sky. Kepler has unveiled searingly hot, tiny terrestrial worlds, planets potentially sharing an orbit, an especially inky light-absorbing planet, and 54 planets comfortably ensconced in the Goldilocks zones of their stars. In September, Kepler astronomers announced yet another bizarre discovery: A planet orbiting around a binary star system, just like a certain dun-colored world in a certain science fiction film sextet.
But most people likely didn't know this exciting find — doubtless one of Kepler's most famous discoveries to date — was initially someone else's trash. Laurance Doyle happily sifted through it, leading to one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the year.
A laser with amazing properties may help astronomers fine-tune planet hunting tools
By Gregory MonePosted 05.06.2008 at 10:16 am 1 Comment
Scientists have shown off a new laser that boasts an incomparable mix of speed, short pulses and power. That's newsworthy in and of itself, but this laser, developed by researchers at the University of Konstanz in Germany and, here in the U.S., at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, could also lead to a 100-fold increase in the sensitivity of observatories searching for extrasolar planets. The laser itself is the size of a dime, and pops out 10 billion pulses per second with an average power of 650 milliwatts.