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Twenty years ago, the search for planets--and life--outside the solar system was a job restricted to science fiction writers. It is now one of the most rapidly growing fields in astronomy, with thousands of these "exoplanets" discovered so far. The detection of these worlds has only been possible in the last decade, with the number of discoveries increasing enormously over the last year following the findings of the Kepler Space Telescope. These new worlds are more alien than anything in fiction. Planets larger than Jupiter with years lasting one week, planets circling the dead remains of stars, others with two suns lighting their skies or with no sun at all. These locations hint at Earth-sized worlds but with split hemispheres of perpetual day and night, waterworlds drowning under global oceans, and volcanic lava planets spewing seas of magma.



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