Smallest rocky planet outside solar system found

Washington, Jan 11 (ANI): NASA's Kepler mission has discovered its first rocky planet, called Kepler-10b.

The planet measures 1.4 times the size of Earth, making it the smallest planet ever discovered outside our solar system.

The discovery of this so-called exoplanet is based on more than eight months of data collected by the spacecraft from May 2009 to early January 2010.

"All of Kepler's best capabilities have converged to yield the first solid evidence of a rocky planet orbiting a star other than our sun," said Natalie Batalha, Kepler's deputy science team lead at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and primary author of the paper on the discovery.

"The Kepler team made a commitment in 2010 about finding the telltale signatures of small planets in the data, and it's beginning to pay off."

Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone, the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the planet's surface. However, since it orbits once every 0.84 days, Kepler-10b is more than 20 times closer to it's star than Mercury is to our sun and not in the habitable zone.

The discovery has been published by the Astrophysical Journal.(ANI)

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