An artist's illustration of an Earth-like planet. The search for planets that are similar to Earth is one of NASA's main goals. Many planets have already been discovered orbiting other stars, but so far only larger planets (the size of Jupiter or larger) have been found. New missions are being planned by NASA which will be able to detect smaller Earth-sized planets. Some of these missions will also try to detect signs of life on these planets by studying emissions in their atmospheres.


Astronomers find 'super Earth' around another star; call it Rocky

SOURCE: The Christian Science Monitor
September 16, 2009

Quick! Before you begin reading, drop down to the bottom of the post, activate the YouTube link, then quickly scroll back up here (all you really need is the sound).

Laydeeezzz and gentlemun, boyzzz and girlzzz, an international team of astronomers on the Third Rock from the sun gives you the best evidence yet for a rocky planet -- not too much bigger than Earth -- orbiting another star.

The planet is called CoRoT-7b. And it appears to have a sibling super-Earth, CoRoT-7c, though much less is known about it. This makes the system the first dual super-Earth system astronomers have found. The team summarized its findings today at the European Planetary Science Congress, meeting this week in Postdam, Germany.

You can find a lay-language summary here. You can find a PDF of the formal results, accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, here.

CoRoT-7b is the smallest exoplanet found so far. It's slightly more than 1.5 times as large as Earth. But any vague resemblance stops there.

The parent star -- 500 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros -- is some 1.5 billion years old. The planet orbits its star at a distance of less then 2 million miles, giving it a "year" that lasts about 20 hours.

With an orbit that close, the team estimates that the temperatures on the planet's surface range somewhere between 1,527 to 2,327 degrees Celsius on the sunlit portion (think molten on the surface) and a frosty -200 degrees C on the night portion.

Read More:

First rocky planet found outside solar system

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