The Kepler/Spitzer Telescopes:
Astronomers using data from NASA's Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes have created the first cloud map of a planet beyond our solar system, a sizzling, Jupiter-like world known as Kepler-7b.
"By observing this planet with Spitzer and Kepler for more than three years, we were able to produce a very low-resolution 'map' of this giant, gaseous planet," said Brice-Olivier Demory of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Demory is lead author of a paper accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. "We wouldn't expect to see oceans or continents on this type of world, but we detected a clear, reflective signature that we interpreted as clouds."
The List of Extra-Solar Planets Orbiting Other Suns Now Close To 1000!!!
PLANETS DISCOVERED IN 'HABITABLE' ZONE!
Another discovery is of Kepler-62f, a super-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a star smaller and cooler than the sun, located about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. The 'habitable zone' is that distance from a Main Sequence Star (like our sun) in which a rocky planet orbits (like our planet). There's been many such discoveries over the years.
"Alpha Centauri Bb" is a well known planet about 4.3 light years from our sun, Sol. It orbits too close to it's star to have life.
"Tau Ceti e" is about 11 light years from our Sun & it orbits just at the edge of the habitable zone.
"Gliese 581 d" is about 20 light years from our Sun. This planets orbits within the habitable zone!
"Gliese 581 Cc" lies 22 light years from Earth and lies within the habitable zone around it's star. This planet is considered the greatest possibility habitability of all the exo-planets discovered so far!
The list keeps growing every week. The discoveries being made at NASA & JPL are historical, to say the least.