NASA 2016 Mars Mission to Investigate Planet Core [Video]

NASA 2016 Mars Mission to Investigate Planet Core [Video]

by James Fenner


NASA plan to look at Mars planet core

Astronomers have pondered over why Earth and Mars are so different, from an evolutionary perspective, for quite some time. However, NASA have designs to fill in these gaps in our planetary knowledge by launching a cost-effective mission to Mars, by 2016, to investigate the planet’s core.

Mars vs. Earth

InSight mars mission Logo

The new mission is called InSight (Interior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), and will attempt to identify the nature of the Red Planet’s core. Specifically, is the core in liquid form or is it solid? Furthermore, the research efforts will attempt to establish why there is such a huge difference between the crust of Earth and Mars. Our planet is home to a series of tectonic plates, whilst Mars is an endless, barren wasteland of deserts, valleys and polar ice caps, interspersed with impact craters.

Researchers believe that the key to understanding these mysteries might lie at the heart of the Red Planet, and could eventually lead scientists to pinpoint the means by which other rocky planets come to fruition.

The mission’s budget is planned to be a little over $400 million, with Bruce Banerdt taking the helm, who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in California.

Launching in March 2016, and with a lander arriving on the planet half a year later, the Mars mission is due to last two years. The lander will consist of a number of instruments to measure seismic activity and heat fluctuations within the planet’s interior, whilst taking measurements of the rotation of the Red Planet upon its axis. The robotic lander will also feature a set of cameras and a pair of arms to aid its research.

The Financial Factor

The InSight Mars mission was given the go ahead after competing against two other proposed missions, TiME and Comet Hopper, as it was an evolution of a previous NASA project InSight Spacecraft Design

(the Phoenix Mars Mission) and provided a highly cost-effective prospect. The Phoenix lander was a highly successful mission, which was utilized to explore ground ice around the Martian north pole; it’s thought that exploiting the same technology for the new InSight mission could help to cut costs.

This was confirmed by John Grunsfeld, the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate who suggested that TiME’s proposed mission to Titan (Saturn’s enormous moon), represented a financial gamble, citing scheduling problems as another adverse factor.

Landing Site Selection

According to NBC News, NASA is currently investigating plausible landing sites for InSight’s 2016 Mars Mission. Thus far, four suitable sites have been selected, where investigation of the planet’s core may commence. Matt Golombek, also working from NASA’s JPL, highlights that landing suitability is principally based around the area that is deemed safest:

“They have mostly smooth terrain, few rocks and very little slope.”

These landing sites have all been selected within the Elysium Planitia zone of Mars. This region is thought to provide sufficient solar power, all year round, as well as a descent atmosphere (due to low elevations), with which the spacecraft can make its landing.

Map of Mars InSight landing zones

NASA had also previously considered other landing zones as viable targets, including areas of the Valles Marineris, the Isidis Planitia and the famous “Grand Canyons” of Mars. However, these regions had a number of issues preventing the go-ahead, including uneven terrain and high wind velocities.

Studying Mars as a Living Entity

NASA describe this new space adventure as a search for “fingerprints,” of the mechanisms by which terrestrial planets develop, and almost seems to compare Mars to that of a human being. The seismological activity represents the planet’s “pulse”, whereas its heat flow and tracking represent “temperature” and “reflexes.”

As there is no tectonic activity, and the planet is less geologically dynamic than Earth, Mars is thought to retain most of its history within its crust, mantle and core. Consequently, the team consider that thorough investigation of the size, density and overall thickness of the various layers of the planet could provide a more concrete understanding of how Mars has changed with time.

The birth of a planet begins when a rocky body evolves. Evolution follows the formation of the rocky body by a process called accretion. The body increases in size, its inner material heats up and melts, and it then recrystallizes during a period of cooling. The end result is a terrestrial planet, encompassing the crust, mantle and core.

It’s the subsequent steps that scientists are confused by, however. A planet’s evolution is based upon differentiation, which astronomers know little about. This is, hopefully, where InSight is likely to plug in the gaps in our knowledge.

To round off the mission, NASA plans to conduct an investigation into the impact of meteorites on the Red Planet’s surface. NASA’s 2016 Mars mission, and their plans to study the planet’s core features, represents an exciting new step for the space agency, who have been under much criticism for not pursuing further endeavors on the Red Planet. Hopefully, this will help silence some of their critics.

By James Fenner

NASA’s InSight Website

NBC News Link Link


  • ONE SCOOP A photo transmitted from Mars shows the Curiosity rover’s first drilled rock sample. Analyses of the rock powder suggest that the area being explored by the rover was once hospitable to life. more >>
  • NASA, JPL-Caltech, MSSS
Latest News
  • WASHINGTON — Microbial life could have thrived on Mars billions of years ago, researchers from NASA’s Curiosity mission reported March 12. An analysis of the rover’s first drill sample on the Red Planet revealed a nonacidic, slightly salty aquatic environment with plenty of energy-rich minerals. There is no evidence of past life, the researchers said, but the sample revealed the most hospitable environment ever detected beyond Earth. 03.12.13 | more >>

  • WASHINGTON — Sara Volz gasped in amazement when she heard her name called. The 17-year-old finalist had just been named the grand-prize winner at the March 12 awards gala of the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search awards. She was going home with $100,000. 03.12.13 | more >>

  • Surgeons have replaced 75 percent of a man’s skull with a custom-designed polymer cranium constructed with a 3-D printer. The surgery took place on March 4 and is the first U.S. case following the FDA’s approval of the implants last month. The patient’s reason for needing such extensive replacement surgery has not been revealed. 03.11.13 | more >>

  • A contagious cancer decimating Tasmanian devils makes itself invisible to the animals’ immune systems, which might otherwise fight it off, a new study shows. 03.11.13 | more >>

  • You might predict that most fans of the satirical, Fox News–mocking show “The Colbert Report,” are Democrats. But it turns out that liking rapper Nicki Minaj and enjoying cuddling also hint at leftward political leanings. A new study finds that the things someone “likes” on Facebook can predict personal attributes such as political leaning, age, gender and sexual orientation. 03.11.13 | more >>

  • Melt from Arctic Archipelago will raise sea levels by 35 millimeters 03.11.13 | more >>

  • D meson’s switch between matter and antimatter could help uncover new particles 03.08.13 | more >>

  • The Stone Age could just as easily be called the Roam Age. 03.08.13 | more >>

  • Alcohol may give heavy drinkers more than just a buzz. It can also fuel their brains, a new study suggests. 03.08.13 | more >>

  • Bees apparently have their own version of Starbucks and may even get hooked on the joe: Honeybees are more likely to remember a flower that laces its nectar with a hit of caffeine, a new study shows. 03.07.13 | more >>

  • Life is hard in hot volcanic pools laden with salt, acid, sulfur and toxic metals, but a red alga called Galdieria sulphuraria thrives in such environments with a little genetic help from some microbial buddies. The alga borrowed at least 5 percent of its genes from bacteria and archaea that live in extreme conditions, Gerald Schönknecht of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and his colleagues report in the March 8 Science. 03.07.13 | more >>

  • Transplanting human brain cells into mice makes the mice smarter, a new study shows. 03.07.13 | more >>

  • Planetary systems in our galaxy are packed to the brim, according to a new study — throw in another orb and all hell will break loose. The study, posted February 28 at, argues that planets around other stars share an evolutionary history similar to that of the solar system’s eight planets. 03.06.13 | more >>

  • Protein sends message to brain that tongue has detected sweet, bitter or umami flavor 03.06.13 | more >>

  • View the video Swirling rings of fluid have for the first time been tied in a knot. Physicists accomplished the feat with the help of some unlikely lab tools: YouTube videos of dolphins and a 3-D printer. 03.05.13 | more >>

  • Zombies aren’t the only things that feast on brains. Immune cells called microglia gorge on neural stem cells in developing rat and monkey brains, researchers report in the March 6 Journal of Neuroscience. 03.05.13 | more >>

  • The desert’s most iconic creature may be a snow lover at heart. Scientists have unearthed fossils of a giant camel that roamed the Arctic more than 3 million years ago, when the region was warmer than today and blanketed by a boreal forest. The discovery, reported online March 5 in Nature Communications, suggests modern camels probably descended from a cold-dwelling ancestor. 03.05.13 | more >>

  • An infant born with HIV has cleared her body of the virus with the help of three medications started shortly after birth, scientists reported March 3 at the Conference on Retroviral and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta. 03.04.13 | more >>

  • Having HIV may boost a man’s risk of heart attack, a study of more than 82,000 veterans suggests. 03.04.13 | more >>

  • Pregnant women who took an omega-3 fatty acid supplement had bigger babies 03.04.13 | more >>

  • Honeybees may be busy, but they may not be efficient: Native pollinators could help farms worldwide produce bigger harvests. 03.01.13 | more >>


More Mars Rover News | Curiosity Finds Simple Organics, But Big Questions

Curiosity Finds Simple Organics, But Big Questions

“The Curiosity rover has detected organic compounds on Mars, NASA scientists announced at a press conference today. But the source of these carbon-containing molecules, which are essential to sustaining life, is still up in the air. Using Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments, researchers found traces of water, sulfur, and small amounts of organics in the form chlorine-containing compounds, though the researchers were quick to point out that they’re still trying to determine the source of the organics—they could very well could be from residual earth contaminants, the scientists warned. “[SAM] has made this detection of simple, organic compounds; we just don’t know if they’re indigenous to Mars or not,” said project scientist John Grotzinger.”

Iceman Mummy Found | Science News

FROZEN FARMER The 5,300-year-old Iceman mummy found in the Alps was part of a wave of immigrants that moved into Europe as agriculture spread from the Middle East, a new genetic analysis finds.          more >>
© South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, EURAC, Samadelli, Staschitz

Latest News
  • The insidious spread of an abnormal protein may be behind Parkinson’s disease, a study in mice suggests. A harmful version of the protein crawls through the brains of healthy mice, killing brain cells and damaging the animals’ balance and coordination, researchers report in the Nov. 16 Science.                   11.16.12 | more >>

  • NASA’s Curiosity rover isn’t leaving just tire tracks in the reddish Martian dust — it’s also leaving scoop marks in an area called Rocknest, about 480 meters away from where the rover touched down in August.                   11.16.12 | more >>

  • Not all planets are content to dutifully circle a star. A new rogue planet has been spied roaming free among a pack of young stars about 115 to 160 light-years from Earth.                   11.15.12 | more >>

  • A rainforest katydid doesn’t talk like a mammal, or walk like a mammal, but it does hear with the first mammal-like, three-stage sound-sensing system known outside vertebrates.                  11.15.12 | more >>

  • Beefing up some muscles doesn’t take steroids or exercise — paraffin wax will do. Incorporating wax into artificial muscles spun from carbon nanotubes gives them superior flexing power, a discovery that could lead to smart materials such as fabrics that respond to environmental changes.                   11.15.12 | more >>

  • Scientists working in South Africa have unearthed the oldest-known spear tips, apparently made by a common ancestor of people and Neandertals around 500,000 years ago.                  11.15.12 | more >>

  • View the videos  Snowboarders and marine engineers both worry about avalanches, but the latter may have a tougher job when working underwater. They have to understand not only what makes a cliffside collapse, but also how fluid between sand grains affects the flow.                  11.15.12 | more >>

  • The Ebola virus can spread through the air from pigs to macaques, a new study suggests.                  11.15.12 | more >>

  • Droughts shrivel crops, threaten communities, and wither ecosystems. Studies claim global warming is increasing drought worldwide, and may already have done so. But the standard method of assessing drought has exaggerated drying trends over the past 60 years, scientists report in the Nov. 14 Nature.                   11.14.12 | more >>

  • A collection of reports from the conference, held November 6-10 in San Francisco                  11.14.12 | more >>

  • China’s famous Qinling pandas may run out of their favorite food by the end of this century. Scientists have simulated how three bamboo species native to central China’s Qinling Mountains might move around as climate changes. And the news is bad for hungry pandas: All three plant species shrink in range.                  11.13.12 | more >>

  • A mysterious, 3-million-year-old member of the human evolutionary family had a maverick taste for grasses and flowering plants called sedges, a chemical analysis of the creature’s teeth suggests.                  11.12.12 | more >>

  • SAN FRANCISCO — Nearly gnawed-off telomeres — the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes — may portend a higher risk of death, a new study suggests.                   11.11.12 | more >>

  • The effects of a baby’s rough start can linger. An early stressful environment during a baby girl’s first year was associated with altered brain behavior and signs of anxiety in her late teens, scientists report online November 11 in Nature Neuroscience.                   11.11.12 | more >>

  • SAN FRANCISCO — Rare tweaks in single letters of DNA are not as powerful a force in health and in common diseases as scientists hoped, new work suggests.                   11.08.12 | more >>

  • Classic Maya civilization rose and fell with the rains.                  11.08.12 | more >>

  • When a killer seaweed touches a kind of spiky coral, the coral pushes a chemical panic button that brings small resident fish to the rescue.                  11.08.12 | more >>

  • Making hydrogen gas in water just got a little easier. The discovery may lead to inexpensive, practical means of harvesting sunlight to create clean-burning hydrogen for powering cars or generating electricity.                   11.08.12 | more >>

  • Sea levels may swell much higher than previously predicted, thanks to feedback mechanisms that are speeding up ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica.                   11.08.12 | more >>

  • Astronomers on the prowl for potentially habitable planets have found a new candidate: a world seven times as massive as Earth in a nearby solar system.                  11.07.12 | more >>

  • The seemingly unending election cycle may have left you battle-weary and bleary-eyed, but that’s not why physicist Mark Newman’s election maps look distorted. He makes cartograms, maps in which familiar shapes are morphed to represent something other than just area.                  11.07.12 | more >>

Shlockumentary Obama’s America | The Lunatic Ravings of Dinesh D’Souza A Sad, Pathetic Wingnut

D’Souza’s Sad, Pathetic Wingnut Desperation To Tear Down President Obama
By Nicole Belle

On my weekly segment on the Nicole Sandler Show, Nicole jokes that I watch the Sunday shows so her listeners don’t have to. One of our C&L regulars, Mugsy, watches them too and is a very visible presence on Sundays. He also took upon himself the unenviable task to watch wingnut toadie Dinesh D’Souza’s cinematic claptrap “2016” so you don’t have to. Mugsy methodically broke down all the manipulations, gross deceptions, and blatant lies.

And there are so many….

The film starts out with D’Souza talking about himself and how different his life was growing up in his native India yet how differently he views the world today despite that. Then he proceeds to talk for the next 90 minutes about how life in Kenya… a country D’Souza admits Obama never lived in… must have shaped Obama’s attitudes about America. I find myself wondering, how is it that D’Souza can imagine himself to be so radically different despite having been raised in India (a former British colony), but President Obama’s entire world view is the product of a culture in which HE had never lived? Just one of the major inconsistencies in “Obama: 2016″.

Oh you silly liberal with working critical thinking skills…this is clearly not a movie for you.

D’Souza twice claims Obama “wants to turn the Falkland Islands over to Venezuela”, but a Google search turns up nothing other than President Obama choosing to “remain neutral on the subject of Falkland sovereignty, irking Great Britain.” I’m not even sure why this is suddenly an issue. But clearly, it’s just one more sign of President Obama’s deep hatred of anything connected to Great Britain. It’s not like the Falklands were ever involved in a war or anything, right?

For some odd reason, D’Souza suddenly concedes that Obama: “Increased NASA’s budget”, but “lowered their horizons from ‘a return to the moon’ to ‘reconciling with Muslims’.” (huh??? Yeah, read that as many times as you like, I promise it won’t make any more sense.) He returns to this point later towards the end of the film. See below. Here, D’Souza is clearly blaming Obama for the discontinuation of the Shuttle program, which was actually discontinued under the Bush Administration. In fact, the Obama Administration EXTENDED the Shuttle program by two missions

See, I don’t know that any actual facts will penetrate through this level of derangement. Mugsy did an amazing job, including clips from the film.

Go check it out, if for no other reason than to remind yourself that there is no lie too big, no project too stupid, no low too low for conservatives to stoop to smear the African American Democrat in the White House. Then give Mugsy thanks for watching that piece of excrement so you didn’t have to.

Latest Science News

Latest Science News

This composite image captured by the Hubble shows the positions of the dark matter core (blue), galaxies (orange) and gas (green) in the train wreck cluster, formed by colliding galaxies. Full Story NASA, ESA, CFHT, CXO, M.J. Jee/UC Davis, A. Mahdavi/San Francisco State Univ.









Measuring the leap of a lizard Creatures use their tails to balance during complex maneuvers Vying for the title of World’s Fastest Cell Scientists film 58 kinds of mobile cells to study movement Back to the moon’s future Orbiter scouts oldest spots on the lunar surface for prospective landing sites
Plants’ reproductive weaponry unfurled

        3.5.12        –        Botanical tricks include adhesion and bubbles to spread their spores        Found in: Life and Matter & Energy

Science News

New observations from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the planet GJ 1214b, shown orbiting its star in this artist’s conception, is 6.5 times the size of Earth and composed mostly of water. Full Story David A. Aguilar

Eggs may be made throughout adulthoodThe discovery of stem cells in human ovaries suggests that women are not born with a lifetime’s supply of gametes.Read the full story. | Feb 26th 2012Found in: Genes & Cells


Wasps airlift annoying ants In a scrap over food, being big and able to fly is an advantage A matter of gravity Map of planetary field is sharpest ever Brain’s mirror system loves the robot Experiment may suggest why we feel sad for Wall-E
        2.19.12        –        Scientists capitalize on ‘natural’ experiment to chronicle how ecosystems will change as oceans continue to acidify        Found in: Environment

Science News


‘Stirling’ power should propel spacecraft, experts say

23:15 01 February 2012

NASA uses plutonium to power its probes, but Cold War supplies are dwindling – a new twist on a 19th century technology could save the day

First land plants plunged Earth into ice age

19:00 01 February 2012 | 1 comment

When the first simple mosses colonised the land, they unleashed vast ice sheets and triggered a mass extinction

I think we should let elephants loose in Australia

18:00 01 February 2012 | 3 comments

Australia has a long history of ecological disaster from alien species – so why is ecologist David Bowman proposing adding yet another?

Today on New Scientist: 1 February 2012

18:00 01 February 2012

All today’s stories on, including: animals get arty, the yuck factor explained and Earth in for bumpy ride as solar storms hit

Parking sensors to take pain out of finding a space

NEWS: 18:00 01 February 2012

A “parking patch” could bring together wireless sensors and mobile apps to steer drivers towards vacant spots, and lead traffic wardens to parking offenders

Earth in for bumpy ride as solar storms hit

THIS WEEK: 18:00 01 February 2012

Technology makes our planet more vulnerable to solar outbursts than ever before. What are the risks to Earthlings as the sun gears up for peak activity?

Volcanoes may give a 100-year warning

IN BRIEF: 18:00 01 February 2012

Enormous volcanic eruptions build up for a century before finally going off, potentially giving societies decades to prepare

Groundhogs! Forget weather, a science career awaits

17:56 01 February 2012

February 2 is Groundhog Day in the US and Canada, but these beasts are not just unreliable weather forecasters

Big trees in trouble: How the mighty are falling

FEATURE: 17:38 01 February 2012 | 1 comment

From the kings of the jungle to the boreal giants, the world’s greatest trees are at risk from climate change, deforestation and invasive species

Earphones that know when they’re in the wrong ear

16:34 01 February 2012

The prototype earphones detect which ear they are in and switch to the correct audio channel. They can also tell when you listen with a friend

Baby pulsars spawn universe’s most energetic particles

16:09 01 February 2012

Ultra-high-energy cosmic rays occasionally slam into Earth, but their source had been a mystery

Weak will comes from tired mental muscles

THE BIG IDEA: 15:21 01 February 2012 | 4 comments

Self-controlled people have better lives – but for the rest, lack of willpower is more like physical fatigue than moral failure, says Roy F. Baumeister

Scientists suing the FDA after covert surveillance

15:06 01 February 2012

US Food and Drug Administration alleged to have spied on scientists and doctors after they reported problems with approval of medical devices

Animals get arty

14:01 01 February 2012

Paintings by apes and elephants make for an unusual exhibition. But can the works truly be considered art?

$785 million to fight neglected tropical diseases

UPFRONT: 13:00 01 February 2012

A collaboration of governments, big pharma and charities has pledged to provide 14 billion treatments for 10 neglected tropical diseases

Drone could soar through Titan’s skies for years

12:48 01 February 2012

Titan’s low gravity and dense atmosphere mean that a new radioactive-powered plane could soar across its skies for a whole year

Ivory traders may be benefitting from Arab Spring

12:12 01 February 2012

Egypt’s illegal trade in ivory is not dropping as fast as it should – political upheaval and Chinese tourism look like key factors

The yuck factor explained

11:51 01 February 2012

Psychologist Rachel Herz explores the spectrum from self-preservation to morality in That’s Disgusting: Unraveling the mysteries of repulsion

Orchid children: How bad-news genes came good

FEATURE: 11:11 01 February 2012 | 2 comments

The set of genes that help create our most grievous frailties may also underlie our greatest strengths – and sometimes the choice is settled in childhood

Wages up, jobs down – the latest graduate rollercoaster

11:00 01 February 2012

Soon-to-be-graduate Rebecca Campbell gives her take on the latest results from those taking the temperature of the graduate job market

Hayabusa’s asteroid-sampling mission, take two

23:11 31 January 2012

Japan’s Hayabusa 2 probe will use brute force to collect samples from an asteroid in an attempt to avoid the pitfalls of its problem-plagued predecessor

Telepathy machine reconstructs speech from brainwaves

THIS WEEK: 22:00 31 January 2012 | 4 comments

In what amounts to technological telepathy, neuroscientists are on the verge of being able to hear silent speech by monitoring brain activity

Whale acrobatics inspire a faster helicopter

20:28 31 January 2012

Inspired by the fins of humpback whales, engineers have built a helicopter with far higher performance than before

Today on New Scientist: 31 January 2012

18:00 31 January 2012

All today’s stories on, including: why you think your team is the best and self-portraits of a declining brain

Fossil DNA has clues to surviving rapid climate change

THIS WEEK: 17:31 31 January 2012

In the last ice age, organisms adapted fast or died. The stunning find of epigenetic changes to DNA frozen in permafrost may help explain their trick

Herd of ivory elephants reveals illicit trade in Egypt

17:27 31 January 2012

Ranks of ivory elephants in a Cairo shop show how the illegal tusk trade remains strong despite a 20-year ban

Lazy photon among the missing in exotic LHC roll call

17:12 31 January 2012

String balls, leptoquarks and lazy photons have yet to put in an appearance at the LHC, the world’s largest particle smasher

Look ma, no wings: Secret of great tit flight revealed

14:34 31 January 2012

Watch a slow-mo movie that shows a bird folding its wings to take a turn

Self-portraits of a declining brain

14:15 31 January 2012

An exhibition of artist William Utermohlen’s works reveal how his art was influenced by his Alzheimer’s disease

Software could spot face-changing criminals

01:36 18 January 2012

A facial recognition technique that focuses on features rather than a person’s whole face could nab criminals who have had plastic surgery


Vegetarian orang-utans eat world’s cutest animal

Image: Madeleine Hardus)” o:button=”t” o:spid=”_x0000_i1025″> ” src=”file:///C:\Users\TOPGUN!\AppData\Local\Temp\msohtmlclip11\clip_image015.jpg”>

05:52 17 January 2012

When fruit gets scarce for Sumatran orang-utans, some adopt an unusual coping strategy: they hunt slow lorises

Science News


Hazy Titan and icy Dione, two of Saturn’s many moons, pose in front of the giant planet’s rings. Full Story NASA, JPL-Caltech, Space Science Inst.
More SN:-



Wasps airlift annoying ants
In a scrap over food, being big and able to fly is an advantage

NASA spots hot, Earth-like planet

NASA spots hot, Earth-like planet

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Artist concept of exoplanet Kepler 10b.

The discovery is based on more than eight months of data collected by the Kepler spacecraft (Source: NASA)

Hot stuff NASA has spotted a tiny, rocky planet about the size of Earth doing a speedy orbit of a star outside our solar system, the space agency has announced.

The exoplanet, named Kepler-10b, is the smallest-ever planet discovered outside our solar system, but its scorching temperatures are too hot for life.

The planet, which was located by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft findings, is described in a paper to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

It is about 1.4 times the size of Earth and spins around its star more than once a day, an orbit much too close for life to survive.

“Kepler-10b is definitely NOT in the habitable zone as we define it. The dayside temperature of the planet is expected to be higher than 2500°F (1371°C)”, says NASA expert Natalie Batalha. “That’s hot enough to melt iron.”

“It wouldn’t be a very nice place for organisms like those on Earth to live. Carbon-based chemistry wouldn’t thrive there. Molecules comprising RNA and DNA couldn’t stay intact in such extreme temperatures.”

The planet completes a full orbit once every 0.84 days, and is 23 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun.

Finding a ‘significant milesone’

According to Dr Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA, the discovery is promising even though no life could exist there.

“The discovery of Kepler 10-b is a significant milestone in the search for planets similar to our own,” says Hudgins.

“Although this planet is not in the habitable zone, the exciting find showcases the kinds of discoveries made possible by the mission and the promise of many more to come,” he said.

The new planet has a mass 4.6 times that of the Earth, and an average density of 8.8 grams per cubic centimetre, similar to an iron dumbbell, says NASA.

Batalha, a professor at San Jose State University and deputy science team lead for NASA’s Kepler Mission, says there is evidence of another potential planet in the same star system, but little is yet known about it.

“There is actually already a very compelling signature of another potential planet in this system,” says Batalha.

“There is a transit event that recurs once every 45 days and is suggestive of a planet a bit larger than two times the radius of the Earth.”

95-megapixel camera

Kepler is NASA’s first mission in search of Earth-like planets orbiting suns similar to ours.

It launched in 2009, equipped with the largest camera ever sent into space – a 95-megapixel array of charge-coupled devices – and is expected to continue sending information back to Earth until at least November 2012.

The space telescope is searching for planets as small as Earth, including those orbiting stars in a warm, habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface of the planet.

NASA defines the habitable zone, in part, to have a temperature below the boiling point of water and higher than the freezing point.

Kepler is not equipped to detect signs of life, such as the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere, but mainly aims to locate Earth-size planets outside our solar system