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Super-Earth's Light Seen for the First Time

Science & Tech  (tags: astronomy, discovery, nasa, Super-Earth, space, science, technology )

- 2221 days ago -
Scientists have detected light from a so-called super-Earth for the first time, NASA says.

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Michael O (176)
Sunday May 20, 2012, 5:47 am
Super-Earths — planets that are larger than our own but lighter than giant planets like Neptune — have been discovered before through indirect measurements, but the planet 55 Cancri e is the first to have its infrared light measured directly. It's also the smallest planet to have its brightness measured directly.

55 Cancri e, which orbits a star visible to the naked eye, is relatively nearby at 41 light years. It's one of about 70 super-Earths that have been discovered so far, but their relatively small size makes them difficult to see.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which in 2005 was the first to detect light from any planet outside our solar system, made the observations. The U.S. agency says Spitzer's successes are laying groundwork for its upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, which will focus on potentially habitable planets.

55 Cancri e is decidedly not.

About twice as big as Earth, it orbits the star 55 Cancri in just 18 hours and has a perpetually sun-facing side that is about 1725 C.

Despite the high temperatures, it is still a waterworld — a planet with atmospheres extremely high in water vapour. High temperatures and pressures on waterworlds turn the water into states of matter that don't exist on Earth, such as hot ice or superfluid water.

Measurements suggest 55 Cancri e is a rocky planet, surrounded by water that is simultaneously liquid and gas, surrounded by steam.

"It could be very similar to Neptune, if you pulled Neptune in toward our sun and watched its atmosphere boil away," principal research investigator Michaël Gillon told NASA.

A study released earlier this year in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics estimated that tens of billions of rocky planets in the Milky Way support liquid water.

wolfNoFwdsPls a (135)
Sunday May 20, 2012, 6:00 am
the term " Super-Earth " seems to me like superstupid sensationalist babytalk, thus ideal for (most) U$Am's


michael h (42)
Sunday May 20, 2012, 6:15 am
wonder if, unlike here, they find intelligent life... i wonder

Kay M (347)
Sunday May 20, 2012, 8:47 am

Freya H (357)
Sunday May 20, 2012, 12:41 pm
We have searched only a teeny, teeny fraction of our galaxy. It is only a matter of time before we find more planets similar to our own.

Roger G (154)
Sunday May 20, 2012, 12:50 pm
noted thanks !

Quanta Kiran (67)
Sunday May 20, 2012, 10:37 pm

Past Member (0)
Monday May 21, 2012, 3:29 am
thank you

Bob P (394)
Monday May 21, 2012, 5:06 am
interesting thanks

Carmen S (611)
Monday May 21, 2012, 12:57 pm
wow, thanks Michael for sharing this

David C (129)
Monday May 21, 2012, 1:11 pm

M B (62)
Monday May 21, 2012, 1:24 pm
the term " Super-Earth " seems to me "sensational".

Felix P (94)
Monday May 21, 2012, 2:27 pm
Interesting. Could use a lot more info, how fast is it moving if it orbits a huge sun in 18 hrs?

Edgar Zuim (47)
Monday May 21, 2012, 4:06 pm
Great article and very interesting. Astronomy is really fascinating. Increasingly, I believe that we are not alone in this vast universe. Probably in these super-Earths, there is life more civilized than men on this planet called Earth.

Past Member (0)
Monday May 21, 2012, 5:00 pm
Excellent article. Thanks.

Nelson Baker (0)
Monday May 21, 2012, 5:56 pm
Very interesting.

R. G (12)
Monday May 21, 2012, 7:31 pm
thank you

Lois Jordan (63)
Monday May 21, 2012, 8:42 pm
Thanks for posting, Michael. We are not alone in this Universe. Why do we think we're so special? Future generations will probably curse us for not investing more in science and educating our kids better. It's nice to know that there is still good scientific study happening---wish mainstream media would report on it more often.

Robert Hardy (68)
Monday May 21, 2012, 10:22 pm
If we can do this, why can we provide food and shelter for all of the humans on this planet?

Rockney V (3)
Tuesday May 22, 2012, 6:56 pm
Thank you. Space and "Earth like" planets always interest me - as mentioned, this one is just too hot. Still interesting.
To Robert Hardy - I agree - but who knows where research like this will lead ?
But no child, or adult for that matter, should be hungry in the USA - let a lone anywhere else in the word.

reft h (66)
Tuesday May 22, 2012, 9:39 pm
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