Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Smallest Exo-Planet So Far Discovered

Wired Magazine reports:
The smallest exoplanet ever seen is less than twice the size of Earth, and orbits a star similar to our sun 390 light years away. Astronomers recently spotted this world, the most Earth-like planet yet discovered, with the COROT satellite.

"For the first time, we have unambiguously detected a planet that is 'rocky' in the same sense as our own Earth,” said Malcolm Fridlund, ESA COROT project scientist.

For all its similarity to our own globe, though, it is still a far cry away from a habitable Earth-twin. For one thing, it is so hot — between 1,830 and 2,730 degrees Fahrenheit — that scientists think it might be covered in lava. It orbits extremely close to its sun and whips around the star once every 20 hours.

Nonetheless, the discovery takes us one step closer to finding another world that could host life. The newly found planet, dubbed COROT-Exo-7b, is distinct from most of the roughly 330 exoplanets so far discovered, which are by and large gas giants like Jupiter. This planet, however, is a terrestrial world like Earth, and seems to have a density similar to that of our own planet.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Cool (actually, hot, I guess). One step at a time. We're probably still a few years away from a Google exo-planet.