September 13, 2011 by staff
Scientists made the discovery using high precision radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), also known as the “planet hunter” at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) location in La Silla, Chile.
Sets of 16 newly discovered super-Earths are rocky worlds that are potentially more massive than our planet.
Among these16 super-Earths, the only planet in particular, called HD85512b has captured the attention of astronomers because it orbits a star about 35 light years from Earth in the constellation Vela, according to the press release ESO.
Scientists believe there is a small chance that addresses the so-called “Goldilocks zone”, a term used to refer to planets that are neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water.
This is the second planet discovered outside our solar system that could support life on Earth. The first, called Gliese581d, was discovered in 2007.
If we are very, very lucky, this planet could be a habitat “similar to Earth,” said study author Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
“It will be very wet, just think of the muggiest (Washington), the day you can imagine. We’re not saying it’s livable for you and me,” said Kaltenegger.
The new planet is about 3.6 times the mass of the Earth is closer to its star than Earth is to our sun, completing one full orbit every 60 days, but his star is about 1,800 degrees cooler than the sun.
Temperatures on the planet is estimated that between 30 and 50 degrees Celsius and any person on the planet feel very warm and has not been determined yet if the planet is rocky like Earth or made of gas like Jupiter. Because life-sustaining, would be rocky, rather than being based gas like Jupiter, and you need the cloud cover of the atmosphere enough to keep the cold surface.
Besides the possibility Goldilocks planet, astronomers infer the existence of 50 planets by observing a slight wobble in the stars that indicate the gravitational tug of an orbiting planet. 16 of these planets appears to be composed of rock rather than gas.
Scientists anticipate that number will be higher after planet candidates have been confirmed as planets. More than 1,200 candidates were discovered by Kepler space observatory for NASA in California, according to SPACE.com.
“The next big milestone would be 1,000,” the chief scientist of the Exoplanet Exploration Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California Wesley Traub told SPACE.com.
“We are learning that there are many planets out there, and many many stars have planets around then, it’s just a matter of time until you reach the 1,000 mark confirmed planets.”
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