An artist's illustration of an Earth-like planet. The search for planets that are similar to Earth is one of NASA's main goals. Many planets have already been discovered orbiting other stars, but so far only larger planets (the size of Jupiter or larger) have been found. New missions are being planned by NASA which will be able to detect smaller Earth-sized planets. Some of these missions will also try to detect signs of life on these planets by studying emissions in their atmospheres.


Astronomers search for habitable moons

Source: National Geographic

September 2, 2009--A Jupiterlike planet peeks through the clouds above a so-called exomoon in an artist's rendering. It's possible that NASA's planet-hunting satellite Kepler, launched earlier this year, will find habitable moons as well as Earthlike worlds, astronomers announced this week.

Kepler looks for planets outside our solar system by searching for periodic dips in the brightnesses of distant stars, thought to be due to orbiting planets crossing the faces of the stars.

Now a new model suggests that the probe could also look for changes in the speed and position of a transiting planet caused by the gravitational tug of a moon. Knowing the host planet's size, mass, and distance from its star would then reveal whether the moon might be able to support liquid water, and thus life.

For more information:

Habitable moons could to be spotted by 2014
Scientists devise method to detect exomoons
Astronomers search for habitable moons
Planet wobbles could reveal Earth 2.0
Planet-hunter will find alien moons
Search for life elsewhere expands
How to spot moons far, far away
Detecting Life-Friendly Moons
Habitable Moons
And more

Artist’s impression of a hypothetical exomoon in orbit around a Saturn-like planet in another planetary system. (Click image to enlarge)

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