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Super-Earth

Artist's concept of Kepler-62f (Image: NASA)

NASA has announced that the Kepler space probe has discovered two planetary systems that include the smallest planets yet found that lie in the "habitable zone." The systems include three super-Earth size planets, with one of them being a habitable-zone exoplanet that is the closest in size to Earth yet discovered.  Read More

Comparative sizes of Earth and a 'super-Earth' (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC))

In the past couple of decades, nearly 900 planets have been identified outside of our Solar System with thousands more candidates to be considered. Among the most exciting of these exoplanets are the so-called “super-Earths” – planets somewhat larger than the Earth, yet some of which might be capable of supporting life. Unfortunately, a team led by Helmut Lammer at the Space Research Institute (IWF) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences has produced new models that indicate some of these super-Earths may really be mini-Neptunes, with deep, hydrogen-rich envelopes covering a small rocky core.  Read More

A recent analysis of the data gathered from the Kepler telescope has revealed that Earth-s...

The latest analysis of data coming from NASA's Kepler telescope has revealed that nearly all the Sun-like stars in our galaxy appear to have planets orbiting them, and that at least 17 percent of them – about one in six – are hosting a planet the size of our own in close orbit. Because the Milky Way is estimated to contain some 100 billion stars, this means that our galaxy alone could have at least 17 billion Earth-sized planets, some of which may harbor the conditions for life.  Read More

Artist's conception of the five-planet Tau Ceti system (Photo: J. Pinfield/RoPACS/Universi...

Our stellar neighborhood is becoming crowded courtesy of some newly discovered real estate. Astronomers have uncovered evidence buried in the noise of apparently empty data showing that five super-Earths are orbiting the nearby Tau Ceti – a star chosen as one of the targets in the pioneering 1960 Project OZMA search for extraterrestrial life because of its strong similarity to the Sun. Better yet, the two outermost of Tau Ceti's planets appear to be in the star's habitable zone, making them the closest known potentially habitable exoplanets.  Read More

Artist's concept of the HD 40307 planetary system featuring a close-up view of HD 40307g, ...

Due to the masterful efforts of an international team of astronomers, a new super-Earth planet has been discovered within the habitable zone of a star just 42 light years from Earth. Part of a six planetary system, the super-Earth known as HD 40307g has several promising attributes in terms of its ability to support life and because of its relative proximity, it may soon be possible to observe the planet optically.  Read More

CHEOPS, the first of ESA's S-class missions, will study super-Earths

The European Space Agency (ESA) is set to give existing orbiting probes, such as COROT and Kepler, a helping hand in studying super-Earths. Selected from 26 proposals, the CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite) spacecraft is the first S-class (“small”) mission in the ESA’s Science Programme. A partnership between the ESA and the Swiss Space Office, CHEOPS will not seek out new exoplanets, but will instead target nearby, bright stars that are already known to have orbiting planets.  Read More

Scientists destroy simulated Earths to better understand exoplanets, such as Earth-like pl...

Unlike in old B movies, real scientists don’t scream “Fools! I’ll destroy them all!” before throwing the switch on their doomsday device. At least, most of the them don’t. However, the August 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal reports that a team of scientists are working on destroying the world - not once, but repeatedly. Fortunately, the world they’re destroying exists only in a computer simulation and its destruction is in the service of learning more about planets revolving around other stars.  Read More

An artist's impression of the Spitzer Space Telescope (Image: NASA)

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has detected infrared light emanating from 55 Cancri e, a dark, blazing-hot planet only twice the size of Earth and eight times as heavy. This marks the first time that light has been detected from a planet of such a small size, and the find is telling astrophysicists where to look in their search for signs of life on planets beyond our own.  Read More

An artistic conception of  the triple star system where GJ667Cc resides (Image: Carnegie I...

An international team of scientists led by Professors Guillem Anglada-Escudé and Paul Butler from the Carnegie Institution for Science in the U.S. has discovered a potentially habitable Super-Earth that's "just" 22 light years away. The new Super-Earth has a mass that is 4.5 times larger than that of our planet and it revolves around its parent star in 28 days - a star that is significantly smaller than ours. This remarkable new discovery suggests that habitable planets could exist in a wider variety of environments than previously believed.  Read More

Artist's impression of the rocky super-Earth HD 85512 b - one of more than 50 new exoplane...

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has announced its exoplanet-hunting HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) has discovered 50 new exoplanets, making it the largest amount of exoplanets that has been announced at the one time. Bringing the number of planets discovered outside our solar system to 645, the 50-planet haul includes 16 super-Earths (planets with a mass between one and ten times that of Earth), including one that orbits at the edge of the habitable zone of its star.  Read More

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