After Hours

Images: NASA hunts for a new Earth

NASA is searching the galaxy for Earth--or at least a planet that is similar to our home planet. The space agency has several ongoing projects to identify new planets outside our solar system and then will send space missions to study the planets and hopefully find one that is similar to Earth.

The Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS) project conducted by the Hubble Space Telescope recently found 16 new planets. This illustration shows what one of them may look like--a giant, Jupiter-sized exoplanet that orbits an unnamed red dwarf star.

This red-hot planet is just 750,000 miles from its star and orbits every 10.5 hours. Scientists speculate that a planet that large and close to a star could have a powerful magnetic field that would trap particles from the sun, creating auroral rings.

The latest findings brings the total of known planets outside our solar system to 199.

NASA, ESA, and A. Schaller (STScI)

By Bill Detwiler

Bill Detwiler is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the ...