The Hunt for Habitable Planets

Here and now, a new suite of small telescopes are poised to look for Earthlike planets beyond the solar system

By Ron Cowen, 07:53 AM December 4, 2008

For years, planet hunters have been preoccupied with hot Jupiters—giant, gaseous planets that tightly hug their sunlike parent stars. These massive, close-in planets, not yet directly seen, are the easiest to find because they induce the largest wobble in the motion of the stars they orbit. But now astronomers are following a rockier road—seeking rocky, icy planets only a few times as massive as Earth. Soon, astronomers predict, they will discover an Earth-sized planet that orbits wit...

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