NASA’s orbiting Kepler telescope has found an exoplanet, called Kepler-10b, located over 500 light years from Earth. The exoplanet is a groundbreaker in two ways: it’s the first exoplanet that is definitely solid (no possibility it could be a gas giant) and it is the smallest exoplanet yet found. It has 1.4 times the diameter of Earth as seen in the completely accurate picture above. And as I’ve said many times: it may be small, but it’s really hard. Its mass is 4.6 times that of Earth; you’d weigh nearly 2.5 times as much on the surface of this planet. Then you’d burn to death nearly instantly because Kepler-10b is so close to its star that it takes fewer than twenty-four hours to complete an orbit.
Although the exoplanet isn’t in the habitable zone, finding a solid exoplanet and one of such small size only two years after the Kepler telescope began collecting data is a cause for optimism. We just may find another habitable planet to ruin in the near future. This discovery is also a momentous occasion for another reason: it gives me the opportunity to make no fewer than two yo’ mamma jokes. And in the interests of science, isn’t that what’s really important?