Nasa's Kepler planet-hunter detects five worlds
By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent, BBC News
Nasa's Kepler Space Telescope has detected its first five exoplanets, or planets beyond our Solar System.
The observatory, which was launched last year to find other Earths, made the discoveries in its first few weeks of science operations.
Although the new worlds are all bigger than our Neptune, the US space agency says the haul shows the telescope is working well and is very sensitive.
The exoplanets have been given the names Kepler 4b, 5b, 6b, 7b and 8b.
They were announced at an American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington DC.
The planets range in size from an object that has a radius four times that of Earth, to worlds much bigger than even our Jupiter.
And they all circle very close to their parent stars, following orbits that range from about 3.2 to 4.9 days.
This proximity and the fact that the host stars are themselves much hotter than our Sun means Kepler's new exoplanets experience an intense roasting.
Estimated temperatures go from about 1,200C to 1,650C (2,200F to 3,000F).
"The planets we found are all hotter than molten lava; they all simply glow with their temperatures," said Bill Borucki, Kepler's lead scientist from Nasa's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.