back to article NASA hails 'amazing' exoplanetary system

NASA's Kepler space observatory has spotted an "amazing" exoplanetary system - six planets orbiting a sun-like star some 2,000 light-years from Earth. Artist's representation of the Kepler-11 system. Pic: NASA Kepler-11 represents "the fullest, most compact planetary system yet discovered beyond our own", and only the …


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  1. Annihilator


    "These discoveries underscore the importance of NASA's science missions, which consistently increase understanding of our place in the cosmos"

    Or rather:

    "These discoveries underscore the importance of NASA's science missions, which consistently diminish our importance in the cosmos"

    1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

      Only Our...


      ...self importance is diminished.

      Because we are made of matter, each of us is attached to the Universe.

      The more we see and understand the beauty of it, the more we see and understand the beauty of ourselves.

      *please raise a pint for my 69th. Feb 14, 2012

      1. Anonymous Coward

        69th? Feb 14, 2012?

        Oh, how many jokes could be made with such a number on st Valentine day :)

    2. Ammaross Danan

      Geocentric much?

      "In one generation we have gone from extraterrestrial planets being a mainstay of science fiction"

      I'm quite frankly surprised at the short-sightedness of some to think that planetary formation is soley unique to our solar system. That extrasolar planets were ever considered science fiction is saddening. (Yes, a bit of correction for using "extraterrestrial planets" since we've known of "extraterrestrial" planets such as Mars for a long while now...."extrasolar" please)

      1. Oninoshiko

        Quantumcentric much?

        "In one generation we have gone from extraterrestrial planets being a mainstay of science fiction, to the present, where Kepler has helped turn science fiction into today's reality."

        I'm quite frankly surprised at the short-sightedness of some to think that planetary formation is only occurs once we see it. I'm fairly sure it was always science, just unproven.

  2. Sureo

    "millions of planets orbiting the stars that surround our sun..."

    Now if only there was some way to get there....

    1. Aaron Em

      ...we wouldn't want to go to Kepler very much anyway

      None of those planets are anywhere near within the habitable zone for a Sun-like star. (If they were, Mercury and Venus wouldn't be so unseasonably hot all the time.)

  3. Blake St. Claire

    Let's go

    I heard it's populated with eight foot tall blue humanoids and has lots of unobtainium.

    1. seanj


      Why go so far for your Unobtanium? Louis Gossett Jr was able to manufacture enough of it in an abandoned aircraft hangar in the Utah desert here on Earth to build a large underground train-looking thing in "The Core*".

      *Yes, I know general feeling towards this film is negative, I don't care, it's still more fun to watch than 2012....

      \Mine's the one with the copy of The Day After Tomorrow in the pocket...

      1. rciafardone

        It was not Louis Gossett Jr.

        It was Delroy Lindo.

      2. Aaron Em

        Yeah, but...

        "Yes, I know general feeling towards this film is negative, I don't care, it's still more fun to watch than 2012...."

        Well, I mean, it's less painful to bash myself in the nuts with a tack hammer than with an eight-pound sledge, but why do either?

    2. Captain Save-a-ho

      Second that... long as they have some kind of beer. None of this mixed drink, Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster nonsense.

  4. GrumpyJoe
    Thumb Down

    Is it me...

    or is the fact that the rest of the universe follows the general physical properties that we can see here not as astounding as is made out by these scientists?

    "Loads of planets!" - yes, and? If they are formed here with known physical contraints, why shouldn't they be formed elsewhere?

    Am I missing something?

    1. Poor Coco

      Yes, you are missing something.

      The data that is now available thanks to Kepler gives us a vastly larger sampling of planetary systems and gives us an idea of what is possible in solar system formation. This is wonderful insight.

      It could also simply be amazement at the wonderful devices we have now made, such as Kepler. Bravo boffins!

    2. Daniel Evans

      Two reasons

      1. Using our large sample of "one solar system" (i.e. ours) is generally frowned upon - until know, we were the only proof that a fair number of large planets could orbit one star, nor do we know how common our type of system is. It'd be like saying "my house is a mansion with 8 bedrooms, so every house must be a mansion with 8 bedrooms!" - sure, there's a few mansions out there, but how many?

      2. It's a fairly squished up solar system. 6 planets with sizes all the way up to Neptune/Uranus all fitting inside the orbit of Venus? I do find it pretty impressive that they haven't all smashed into or ripped eachother up.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Large Gaseous Bodies

        "my house is a mansion with 8 bedrooms, so every house must be a mansion with 8 bedrooms!"

        I do believe that is the current government view on housing.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Nah, I'd guess it is just a science thing GrumpyJoe

      We still don't really know what solar system formation involves, that is, there is no theory of planet formation though there are a lot of models and conjectures. I'm sure planetary scientists have boxes full of mad orreries and such, but they have to behave a bit more strict in public when reporting on these new discoveries.

      Check out this map NASA pulled together as a theoretically possible star(s) system:


      Now... hmm... I feel a bit of Brian Cox is in order.

    4. Jerome 0

      Just like it is here

      If we are to take our own solar system as a model, are we to assume that every solar system has, on average, one life-bearing planet on which sentient beings have evolved to a sufficient extent that they can make sarcastic comments to each other on message boards?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Yeah BUT...

    I have seen this here - in other sites...

    So while it's GREAT for find out all this stuff about the universe, HOW can we get there - and considering HOW HUGE the universe is, and HOW MUCH evil galactic radiations there are, AND the fry you to death impacts with hydrogen atoms - causing NASTY ionising radiation and death within a second or so - at near light speed;

    AND the FAKT that we MUST go wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy FASTER than light speed... to get around in the galaxy...

    Think 3 legged donkey = light speed; and super super super fast space robot // probes picking up speed by sling shotting off the gravity fields of planets....

    We need light years per hour speeds.... and more.

    THEN we can piss off around the galaxy and check all them planets out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      re : Yeah BUT..

      Or some way to distort gravity.. pulling a point in space time towards us, then reversing the effect, ending up at the focus point.. without having to travel through the intervening space.. no need to worry about fast moving particles then, see?

      Doesn't have to be very far away either.. just to be repeatable on a quick time scale..

      Damnit.. I've said too much.. I can hear them comi

      1. annodomini2

        Pulling something towards us is relatively easy

        To generate a strong gravity field you just need to go really, really fast e.g. 0.99C

        Pushing away requires the highly implausible anti-gravity, which only exists (as far as we know) in a physicist's notebook atm.

        1. chr0m4t1c


          But surely to get anti-gravity you just reverse the polarity?

          Don't tell me Star Trek got *that* wrong too!

          1. Aaron Em

            No no no

            You can't just go around willy-nilly reversing polarity on things and expect to go fast -- try reversing the polarity on the mains plugs in your house, see how fast you go when you're electrocuted and set on fire simultaneously by an angry hair dryer.

            No, you need to do it *right* -- that is, you need to reverse the polarity *of the neutron flow*. Which we don't know how to do yet, admittedly, because neutrons have no charge and therefore no polarity. Step one, obviously, then, is to find some way to give neutrons charge, and also to polarize them; once we've done that, we can reverse the polarity of the freshly-charged-and-polarized neutron flow, and Bob up there drifting amongst the clouds is our uncle. Just be careful you don't do it too fast, I hear it's a little nippy up there in LEO.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Hate to tell you

              but the plugs in my house reverse polarity 100 times every second...

              It's called AC. Your hair dryer would probably get angrier if it didn't happen, although it may use a universal motor rather than a synchronous, in which case it really wouldn't care.

              'Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow' could be taken to mean making the neutrons go in the other direction.

              How exactly one might do such a thing, and what purpose it might serve, given their lack of charge is left as an exercise for the reader.

              - As to 'giving a neutron charge' - All you have to do is swap out a quark for a different quark. It doesn't even matter which, you'll either get a proton or an anti-proton - or something else that's charged and pretty strange.

              CERN do it pretty regularly (though not exactly controlled) by bashing things together in the LHC.

      2. Aaron Em

        *plink* *hsss* *plinkplinkPLINKplink* *WHOOSH*

        'Them' of course being the tiny meteoroids approaching your craft at relativistic speeds, thanks to careless use of a drive microsingularity.

        Or -- oh, wait, you're talking about some kind of wormhole nonsense that's even sillier than what I thought you were saying. Carry on!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Magic Wands

      Anyone that claims our understanding of the universe is absolute is poorly informed. It's entirely possible that an incredible discovery is just around the corner, in fact it's possible that it has already been made, but nobody noticed and it languished as some ones play thing for a few weeks before they got bored and dumped it not realising its significance.

      Much like this

      Imagine how much different the world would be if the industrial revolution happened in 100AD, it didn't though as it was seen more as a plaything.

      What the technology that will allow star travel will be like is a mystery (if it is possible) but one can assume 3 basics components will be required - an ability to travel vast distances, an ability to protect the inhabitance of a ship from the dangers of space, the method of travel, and any issues that occur at the end point and, a power source.

      Another important pre step will be establishing a lasting presence on the various moons and planets that make up our solar system.

      But without a goal why would we ever try, imagination and hope are what push people forward, if everyone went "well what's the point of trying something new" we'd all be roaming the land a lot like the various predators of the wilds.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scientist or Boffin?

    This Jack Lissaur, is he a scientist or boffin. I hardly think we need to be listening to the droolings of someone with an 'O' level in macrami.

  7. Ugotta B. Kiddingme


    "In one generation we have gone from extraterrestrial planets being a mainstay of science fiction..."

    I think you mean "extrasolar", yes? There are currently seven-ish extraterrestrial planets in the neighborhood.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist and a Kepler science team member'

    Whoa there!

    Following the Neal's ('we're not charlatans, honest') Yard ruling from the ASA, 'scientist' might mean he's got an advanced degree in theoretical yogurt weaving from the University of Creditcard sur Internet.

    I'm hoping that Lissauer being described as a 'planetary scientist' means he's sort of a geologist. Geologist may not often need to resort to solving problems with calculus (most geological problems are soluble with a hammer), but must be considered boffins because they're responsible for dinosaurs and volcanoes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "must be considered boffins because they're responsible for dinosaurs and volcanoes."

      They should be considered gods if they're really responsible for dinosaurs and volcanoes.

      1. lpopman

        titular admonishment

        Now, now TMC. Please don't bring the g-word into a debate about sciencey stuff, it's silly.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        ...I didn't want to boast.

  9. Alfie


    I'm sure we had agreed that these guys were boffins? Surely this kind of repeated measurement and interpretation of data is exactly what boffins do to prove that things like planetary formation follow the same rules as observed in our solar system?

    And when are they going to prove that hyper-space travel is possible so that we can go visit these discworlds? Poxy impulse power isnt going to get us anywhere!

  10. Brian 6

    Habitable ??

    Just in what way are these planets habitable ? Just because they re orbiting an earth like sun don't make them habitable ? Is anyone claiming they have a breathable atmosphere ? NO ? Not habitable then..

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Who thinks up these headlines?!?

      These planets are orbiting their star inside the distance of MERCURY and VENUS from Sol! To remind you, Venus is a toxic overheated greenhouse with lakes of sulfuric acid, emphasis on the OVERHEATED! Mercury is a baked desert with daytime temperatures above 400C! In what conceivable reality are these planets going to be HABITABLE!?!?

      1. annodomini2


        1st, Not every star in the galaxy is as hot as the sun. The habitable zone moves depending on the star and it's type.

        2nd, The habitable planets are not around Kepler 11b, but other star systems.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Not every star in the galaxy is as hot as the sun."

          You're right there -- something like 80% of all stars in our galaxy are far cooler and dimmer than our sun.

      2. Alicia


        It's a little presumptious to assume that because we can't survive on Venus that nothing can. There are places under the sea where the tectonic plates meet, spewing out heat and various noxious gases. There are creatures there that can not only tolerate that environment, but thrive in it.

        So, I'd say it's conceivable in our reality that they are habitable. Just not to us. But then, we aren't really that important (unless you believe we are all the unique and special creations of a god that cares more about us than anything else he created).

        Besides, doesn't the heat of the planet depend on a variety of things including a) how far it is from its sun b) how hot that sun is c) what makes up its atmosphere d) if it happens to orbit in the shade of another planet

    2. Aaron Em

      It doesn't say 'habitable' in the headline.

      Well spotted, tho.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    ...but is it "magical"?

    Yes...I'm going. Mine's the one with a far-too-big-for-my-pocket my pocket.

    1. Captain Save-a-ho
      Jobs Horns

      Not that far off

      Just waiting until his iMinence decides to create the iKepler and sue all these egghead planetmongers out of existence.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    in order to

    > NASA explains that such bodies form from a star's protoplanetary

    > disc "relatively quickly in order to obtain gases before the disk

    > disperses".

    Did they really say that? It seems to imply some form of anticipation and intent in planet formation.

    1. frank ly

      re. Anticipation And Intent

      Every sensible young protoplanet instinctively knows that it must form quickly in order to grab available material before it gets swept up by other, faster forming planets. If a protoplanet did not behave like that, it would not form and so would not exist.

      This is called 'survival of the fattest' and is the reason why most of the observed extrasolar planets are big and chunky things.

      1. Bounty

        re. re. Anticipation And Intent →

        "This is called 'survival of the fattest' and is the reason why most of the observed extrasolar planets are big and chunky things."

        No the reason why most of the observed extrasolar planets are big is because they are the easiest to spot. Our solar system may or may not be a good model, same for most of what we've found so far. It could be that most solar systems are full of tiny planets, but we can't detect them yet. You can have a prediction, that's fine, just don't call it fact yet.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Disclosure calls

    ""Among "several hundred new planet candidates" are 54 habitable zone worlds, of which five are "near Earth-sized". The remaining 49 are "range from super-Earth size – up to twice the size of Earth – to larger than Jupiter"".

    Just skip to the point where the nord and eben are introduced to us humans.. NASA should stop pissing about the slow warm up and get to the point.. we have been visited and contacted.. they should get on and disclose... getting bored with the governments mucking us all about for tooooo long!

    1. Adus


      That's a joke right? You don't seriously believe we have been visited?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        RE : Joke

        Well either the CIA/NSA and NASA have been dressing kiddies up in alien kit and flying around in iron that defies known laws of flight.

        Or we have been visited by aliens, either way the evidence that something has been going on and the US/UK/USSR and Chinese governments have been keeping it underground.... is overwhelming... We aint the only life in the universe!

        You think SETI just pickup radio noise??? Background noise from the big bang? total horsec***

        1. aspir8or


          Intelligent beings with the technology to either exceed the speed of light (or bypass it in some way), or that have spent generations in slower than light craft, finally reach Earth then spend the next 60 years experimenting on cows and white trailer trash? Surely they would have landed and set up a circus by now at Nazca? After all, they're obviously clowns, and they have a guaranteed audience with all the people they command with anal inserts.

  14. ici.chacal


    All planets are extrasolar... :-p

  15. Banther dodo

    What a sobering thought

    If, once we get to travel out there and visit all of these M-class worlds, we only find three alternatives in existence:

    Rocks with no indigenous life.

    Worlds having nothing but a bacterial soup.

    Worlds with the ruined remains of a dead civilization.

    1. Alfie


      You missed out the fourth alternative:

      Worlds with nothing but a crashed starship containing one dead alien and a *LOT* of funny looking eggs.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      "Rocks with no indigenous life"

      "Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away? Ma'am -- I already said it was a derelict. It was NOT FROM THERE, you get it?"

  16. Peter Mc Aulay

    Not habitable, but...

    Maybe someone is building a Dyson sphere.

  17. Dropper


    Looks suspicious to me.. I bet this is where all the missing white socks go.. and pens too probably..

  18. Dave 124

    NASA Press

    The quality of the 'science' behind the latest NASA 'discovery' can be easily summed up by the artist's depiction they feel compelled to include. First, they have no idea of the actual composition, coloration or exact density of the 'planets'. Like the 'Martian rock' from several years ago they are jumping to conclusions without actual proof so as to take credit. Remember no one has actually recovered a rock from Mars so as to make a comparison and there has never been a complete survey of the asteroid fields to say the small rock was exclusively from mars. So like that faux science this current 'discovery' ranks up there with prior efforts of NASA to show relevance and hence a justification for funding.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Umm But....

    Earth is already uninhabitable:

    Forecast for the rest of Friday

    Cloudy. Scattered showers, heavy at times in the afternoon and isolated thunderstorms. Winds westerly averaging 15 to 25 km/h. Daytime maximum temperatures in the low 30s.


    Few showers.



    Fire Danger: Low to Moderate

    UV Alert from 9:40 am to 5:50 pm, UV Index predicted to reach 13 [Extreme]

    OK - so the faster than light travel is bullshit of epic proportions..... by the simple, "Keep going fastera until you reach the speed" method.

    So what CAN be done to "blip" around the universe in moments - rather than galactically irradiated mega-centuries?

    I saw a video on youtube about Hitler living in the NAZI UFO bases under the North pole... but that last bit about moving to the far side of the moon for his 140th birthday seemed like bullshit to me.

    Though I thought their use of the technology of Atlantis was rather clever.....

    Perhaps we can invent a quantum hopper - if we can adjust the Neo Flux generators to emit attracto repulsor rays.. to stand still in time and space, and pull holes through the spartial dimensionaliser quadrant vector field.

  20. kennsmi

    I'm blinded by 'science'

    "These break down into 68 planets of approximately Earth-size, 288 super-Earths, 662 comparable to Neptune, 165 the size of Jupiter, and 19 larger than Jupiter."

    Very good, means nothing. How many Wales is that?



  21. Anonymous Coward


    Note they changed the headline and added a few more pages since I first commented. And now it makes sense, but the original version was only about the Kepler 11 discovery, and the headline trumpeted that habitable planets had been found. The claim was that K11 was a sun-like star, hence my not unreasonable assumption that most anything orbiting closer than Venus would be fried. And put away your complaints about what strange life-forms might decide this is habitable. To me habitable is frolicking in the green fields and lying by the pool (water, not molten sulfur) with a iced cocktail (ethanol, not cetyl alcohol) in me hand. Cowering beneath a titanium steel dome and going out in a sealed suit with air-conditioning in the underwear does not count as ``habitable''.

  22. Sarev

    Drake equation

    Anyone tried plugging these updated numbers into the Drake equation yet?

  23. TelePom
    Thumb Down

    Illiterate PR flack?

    "...which is twice as close to its star than Earth is to the Sun"

    I think I know what this means, but good English it ain't.

  24. Stephen 27

    The use of times less

    Does this only bother me? The use of terms like "10 time closer" or "twice as close" distance. WTF is that supposed to mean? How about something that makes sense like one 10th the distance and half the distance?

    Just bugs me... thats all. Mine's the one with the slide rule in the pocket.

    1. Argo1946
      Thumb Up

      Bugs me too

      I was going to wait until I retired (only two weeks to go) before I turned completely into Victor Meldrew but I decided to join in today. Stephen 27 - I agree with you completely.

      Not only what you reported but we also see such idiocy as 'ten times smaller than'.

      Here's a question - if the limit is 80mg per 100ml and someone is arrested for being 'twice the limit' then they have 160mg per 100ml. Frequently, newspapers report someone as 'twice over the limit'; well, if 160 is twice the limit, would 240 be twice over the limit?

  25. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Millions of planets - wow !!

    I wonder what all the other civilisations out there call their (imaginary) gods?

    Perhaps the more advanced ones amongst them have shrugged off superstition.

    1. Sil_W


      Careful, there, Winkypop. Chucking out snarky remarks about religion when no-one's given it any serious mention so far could easily come over as obsession. Possibly even insecurity. You don't want to go too far down that Dawkins road. Remember, anti-religionists only ever attack the religious *in self-defence*, right?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Standard orbit, Mr Sulu.

    (Thinks, "I wonder what the women look like...")

  27. Dennis Wilson


    With a 2 thousand light year journey to get there i hope they have enough bogs in arrivals.

  28. solaries

    NASA exoplanets

    Wow 54 possible habitable worlds lets see how many are really habitable worlds can there be yet to be found. May this continuing finds inspire NASA to find new propulsion systems so we can send man explorations throwout the galaxy ala Star Trek or Star Wars. Let the adventure begin.

  29. holoman

    Superluminal Space Craft in Works

    Found out threw a friend that secret site in US is working on a faster

    than light space craft capable of many time the speed of light travel.

    I guess those far away solar systems might be closer someday.

  30. holoman

    Superluminal Space Craft in Works

    Found out thru a friend that secret site in US is working on a faster

    than light space craft capable of many time the speed of light travel.

    I guess those far away solar systems might be closer someday.

  31. Mostor Astrakan

    Mr. Lissauer dates himself.

    Lissauer said: 'These data will enable us...'

    These days, "data" is treated linguistically like water: "How much data" rather than "How many". Only the old hands might refer to such a thing as a "datum". We have an old school scientist here.

    Yes, completely tangential. Simple minds are easily amused.

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