Super-Earth: 1 of 50 Newfound Alien Planets, Could Potentially Support Life
2011 09 14

By Denise Chow | CSMonitor.com


Super-Earth: The newfound haul of alien planets includes 16 super-Earths, which are potentially rocky worlds that are more massive than our planet. One in particular has captured astronomers’ attention because it orbits at the edge of its star’s habitable zone, suggesting conditions could be ripe to support life.



This artist rendering provided by The Europeans Southern Observatory shows the planet orbiting the Sun-like star HD 85512 in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sail). This planet is one of sixteen super-Earths discovered by the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory.
Artist rendering provided by The European Southern Observatory/AP


More than 50 new alien planets — including one so-called super-Earth that could potentially support life — have been discovered by an exoplanet-hunting telescope from the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

The newfound haul of alien planets includes 16 super-Earths, which are potentially rocky worlds that are more massive than our planet. One in particular - called HD 85512 b - has captured astronomers’ attention because it orbits at the edge of its star’s habitable zone, suggesting conditions could be ripe to support life.

The exoplanet findings came from observations from the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher instrument, or HARPS. The HARPS spectrograph is part of ESO’s 11.8-foot (3.6-meter) telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. [Illustration and video of alien planet HD 85512 b]

“The harvest of discoveries from HARPS has exceeded all expectations and includes an exceptionally rich population of super-Earths and Neptune-type planets hosted by stars very similar to our sun," HARPS team leader Michel Mayor of the University of Geneva in Switzerland said in a statement. "And even better — the new results show that the pace of discovery is accelerating."

The potentially habitable super-Earth, officially called HD 85512 b, is estimated to be only 3.6 times more massive than Earth, and its parent star is located about 35 light-years away, making it relatively nearby. HD 85512 b was found to orbit at the edge of its star’s habitable zone, which is a narrow region in which the distance is just right that liquid water could exist given the right conditions.


Video from: YouTube.com

"This is the lowest-mass confirmed planet discovered by the radial velocity method that potentially lies in the habitable zone of its star, and the second low-mass planet discovered by HARPS inside the habitable zone,” said exoplanet habitability expert Lisa Kaltenegger, of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Boston.

Further analysis of HD 85512 b and the other newfound exoplanets will be able to determine more about the potential existence of water on the surface.

"I think we’re in for an incredibly exciting time," Kaltenegger told reporters in a briefing today (Sept. 12). "We’re not just going out there to discover new continents — we’re actually going out there to discover brand new worlds."

The HARPS spectrograph is designed to detect tiny radial velocity signals induced by planets as small as Earth if they orbit close to their star.

Astronomers used HARPS to observe 376 sunlike stars. By studying the properties of all the alien planets detected by HARPS so far, researchers found that approximately 40 percent of stars similar to the sun is host to at least one planet that is less massive than the gas giant Saturn.

In other words, approximately 40 percent of sunlike stars have at least one low-mass planet orbiting around it. On the other hand, the majority of alien planets with a mass similar to Neptune appear to be in systems with multiple planets, researchers said.

Astronomers have previously discovered 564 confirmed alien planets, with roughly 1,200 additional candidate worlds under investigation based on data from the Kepler space observatory, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.


Article from: csmonitor.com




Related Articles
Kepler Spacecraft Discovers "Invisible Planet"
Planetary Commotion - Outside Threat Imminent?
Alien Planet Made of Diamond Discovered
Ancient Aliens - What if Life on Earth began in Outer Space? (History Channel Documentary)
Life on Mars? Fossil find shows it’s possible
"ET life inevitably exists due to universal laws, and we’ll soon discover it"
Life could thrive on planets with two suns, but the plants would be black


Latest News from our Front Page

Scientists: The World Has Entered A Dramatic New Geological Age
2014 10 21
Scientists from around the world met this week to decide whether to call time on the Holocene epoch after 11,700 years and begin a new geological age called the Anthropocene - to reflect humankind’s deep impact on the planet. For decades, researchers have asked whether humanity’s impact on the Earth’s surface and atmosphere mean we have entered the Anthropocene - or ...
Ancient Roman Nanotechnology Inspires Next-Generation Holograms for Information Storage
2014 10 21
The Lycurgus Cup, as it is known due to its depiction of a scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, is a 1,600-year-old jade green Roman chalice that changes colour depending on the direction of the light upon it. It baffled scientists ever since the glass chalice was acquired by the British Museum in the 1950s, as they could not work ...
Rapid Geomagnetic Reversal Possibility: Confirmed
2014 10 21
From the video: "The scientists who conducted the study are still unsure why the magnetic field is weakening, but one likely reason is the Earth’s magnetic poles are getting ready to flip, said Rune Floberghagen, the ESA’s Swarm mission manager. In fact, the data suggest magnetic north is moving toward Siberia." Tune into Red Ice Radio: Ben Davidson - Suspicious0bservers: Space Weather ...
Georgia Guide Stone 2014 cube stone removal
2014 10 21
From: Youtube: Was it all just a gag? it seems the cube stone just happens to be made out of the same Elberton granite that the rest of this morbid monument is made from.
Secret Project Created Weaponized Ebola In South Africa In The 1980s
2014 10 21
“No records are available to confirm that the biological agents were destroyed.” Operating out of South Africa during the Apartheid era in the early 1980’s, Dr. Wouter Basson launched a secret bioweapons project called Project Coast. The goal of the project was to develop biological and chemical agents that would either kill or sterilize the black population and assassinate political enemies. ...
More News »