Wednesday, January 11, 2012

News from Big Astronomy Meeting in Texas

Every January, the American Astronomical Society has its large national meeting and there is (for a week or so) a huge increase in astronomy news.  This year, 2500 astronomers are meeting in Texas and here are just a few of the news items (and links to give you more information):

1. Astronomers may have found an object with rings around it (like Saturn does) in another star system about 420 lightyears away:

2. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have found the most distant grouping of galaxies seen so far.  The five galaxies are so far away, the light from them took over 13 billion years to get to us (and we are seeing them as the galaxies of stars are still forming):

3. And perhaps most exciting, astronomers announced the discovery (using the Kepler mission instrument) of the smallest planets yet discovered around a star other than the Sun.  Three small (and most likely rocky) planets orbit quite close to a small red dwarf star about 120 lightyears away.  One of the newly discovered planets is about the size of Mars, breaking the record for the smallest planet yet seen beyond our solar system:

We sure live in exciting times for astronomy fans!

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