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.
Astronomers have proved that even the most basic technology can reveal significant developments in the heavens above. Using a simple ground-based telescope, a team from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) located a “super-Earth” orbiting a red dwarf star only 40 light-years away from Earth.
April 26, 2007 Astronomers have discovered the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, an exoplanet with a radius only 50% larger than the Earth and capable of having liquid water. Using the ESO
3.6-m telescope, a team of Swiss, French and Portuguese scientists discovered a super-Earth about 5 times the mass of the Earth that orbits a red dwarf, already known to harbour a Neptune-mass planet. The astronomers have also strong evidence for the presence of a third planet with a mass about 8 Earth masses. This exoplanet - as astronomers call planets around a star other than the Sun – is the smallest ever found up to now and it completes a full orbit in 13 days. It is 14 times closer to its star than the Earth is from the Sun. However, given that its host star, the red dwarf Gliese 581, is smaller and colder than the Sun – and thus less luminous – the planet nevertheless lies in the habitable zone, the region around a star where water could be liquid!