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Back in the mid-1990s, when astronomers were just beginning to find new planets around distant stars, nearly every new discovery got front-page .lines. Today, with the extrasolar-planet count up to about 400, it takes something extraordinary to make news.
But "extraordinary" may be too understated a descriptor for the discovery reported Wednesday in the journal Nature: an international team led by Harvard astronomer David Charbonneau has spotted a "super-Earth," a planet 2.7 times bigger than Earth, circling a dim red star called GJ 1214, just 40 light-years away in the constellation Ophiuchus. "It's spectacular," says University of California at Berkeley's Geoffrey Marcy, the world's most prolific planet hunter, credited with discovering 70 of the first 100 exoplanets. "It's a top-of-the-top discovery in the quest for Earth-size planets."
Its surface temperature hovers at a sweltering 190°C (374°F), which is well above the boiling point of water, at least in Earth's atmospheric pressure. Fortunately, GJ 1214b's atmosphere makes the pressure a lot higher than on Earth — "crushing," as Charbonneau describes it — and increases the odds of liquid water. (Under pressure, water can remain liquid above 100°C, or 212°F.)
Originally posted by Phage
reply to post by tothetenthpower
If we could send one at the speed of light, 40 years. But we can't get even close to that so make it ...oh, several tens of thousands of years (if we're really, really good).
In 1966, Thomas Brock made the remarkable discovery that microorganisms were growing in the boiling hot springs of Yellowstone National Park.
Originally posted by Aeons
What do I think?
When they say "dim" star, what do they mean? Is this star old? Unstable?
Class M stars are the oldest and most stable suns in the universe. With their small size and "cool" surfaces, they use up their inner fuel much slower than even our own sun (class G). Most of them have lifespans of 10-14 BILLION years. The only problem is their habitable zones are very small and close to the star. So, in essence, the planet must be in the JUST right position to ensure a good chance at habitability. '
But, as Ian from Jurassic Park put it..."Life finds a way"....