13 Sep 2011

Super-earth exoplanet found that could support life

Astronomers say they have found a second planet outside our solar system which is the right distance from its star to potentially support life. But any possible inhabitants would have to have a taste for an environment that felt like a hot steam bath.


European astronomers announced the discovery of a total of 50 planets outside our solar system. Among these was one which lies in the 'Goldilocks zone' - an area which is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water, an essential for Earth-like life, to be present. The only past discovery of a Goldilocks planet that still stands up today is one that was found in 2007. In order to be able to support life the new planet would need not only to have water, it would also need to be solid, like earth and not made up primarily of gas, like Jupiter.

The newly discovered planet, which is called HD85512b, is about 3.6 times the mass of Earth, it is estimated that temperatures there range from 30 to 50 Celsius, and it is thought that the atmosphere is very humid.

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