16 New ‘Super Earth’ Planets Discovered

September 13, 2011 by staff 

16 New 'Super Earth' Planets Discovered16 New ‘Super Earth’ Planets Discovered, European astronomers announced Monday they have discovered 50 new planets, including the so-called super-Earths, 16, one of which is potentially habitable.

The existence of exoplanets outside of our solar system was reported at the meeting of extreme solar systems in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The astronomers made the discovery using high-speed precision radical Planet Searcher (HARPS) telescope in Chile. In the past eight years, this instrument has helped discover a total of 150 new planets.

Of particular interest are the super-Earths, which are larger than our planet, but not as big as the “ice giant” planets like Neptune. In particular, one of the worlds, HD 85512 b, the estimated mass of about 3.6 times that of Earth. This planet is also close enough to its star than liquid water, considered essential for life, may be present.

“The detection of HD 85512 b is far from the limit of harps and demonstrates the possibility of discovering other super-Earths in the habitable zones around stars like the Sun,” says Michel Mayor of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and the HARPS team leader, in a press release.

Officially discovered in August, HD 85 512 b is about 35 light-years away in the constellation Vela. The planet’s temperature has been estimated at around 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit, while the astronomer Lisa Kaltanegger the Max Planck Institute in Germany told The Associated Press that the planet was wet and temperatures of around 49 degrees Celsius or 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

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