Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Amazing Kepler Exoplanet Graphic

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a stunning graphical depiction of the results returned so far by the Kepler spacecraft. Kepler is staring at a small section of the sky within which it keeps track of the brightness of some 100,000 stars, watching for the slight change in light output that can indicate a transiting planet. The amazing graphic shown above shows the number of stars for which transits have been detected, their correct relative sizes and colors, and the correct numbers and relative sizes of the detected planets (multiple planets for some stars). Our own sun is shown for scale at the far right, below the top row of larger stars. If you zoom in, you can see the silhouettes of Jupiter and our very tiny Earth on the sun's face. There is an incredible amount of information in this single image - it could be in the class of the famous graphic depiction of Napolean's disastrous invasion of Russia.

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