A KEPLER FINDING: The Kepler space telescope recently found six new planets around a star like our Sun. Astronomers nicknamed the planets 'mini Neptunes' because of their make-up. Five of these bodies lie closer to the sun-like star than Mercury is to our Sun. The sixth is a bit closer than Venus is to our Sun. The planets are estimated to be two to four times the size of Earth's radius but consist of mostly gases. As determined from their apparent densities, four of the bodies seem to be made up of mostly helium and hydrogen, while the two closest to the star have higher densities, indicating a significant presence of water and less helium and hydrogen.
THE KEPLER PHOTOMETER: This is an instrument aboard the Kepler Telescope that is used to gather data from the group of stars that it is pointed at throughout the four year mission. In general a photometer is used to measure light intensity, in this case, the brightness of the stars. The Kepler photometer is actually a special type of telescope with a very wide field of view; to take up this entire field, it would require 30 Moons lined up in a row!
The American Geophysical Union contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.