Planet Hunting Kepler Finds Rocky World

"This is the first detection that really is unquestionably a rocky planet." - Kepler scientist, Natalie Batalha

[Cross-posted from Kentucky Space] Although the planet is 10 times closer to its host than Mercury is to our sun, NASA's Kepler has spied the smallest world yet, and a rocky one at that, according to NASA.

The exoplanet-hunting Kepler is in Earth-trailing orbit and staring unceasingly at an area in the constellation Cygnus, looking at roughly 145,000 stars in its field of view for the telltale blink-blinks that will betray a body passing regularly between the star and spacecraft. Follow up studies can then characterize the atmospheres, if any, of these transiting worlds.

Finding Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of their parent suns is Kepler's goal.

If you'd like to participator in its discoveries, why not go to Planet Hunters and lend a hand? As a citizen scientist, you can register for free and use your eyes to match mission data to certain patterns that suggest a transiting body.