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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Astronomers Discover Super Earth - A Water World

Photo by NASA.
Astronomers have discovered an exo-planet that reportedly contains water. The discovery was made with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The scientists, from NASA and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, have discovered water on GJ1214b, an Earth-sized exo planet, indicating there is a strong possibility it can (if it does not already) support life.

GJ1214b was discovered in 2009 by the ground-based MEarth Project. It is about 2.7 times Earth's diameter and weighs almost 7 times as much. It orbits a red-dwarf star every 38 hours at a distance of 1.3 million miles and its temperature is around 450 degrees Fahrenheit. GJ1214b is located in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus and is just 40 light years from Earth.
The possibility of water was hypothesized when the exo-planet crossed in front of its host star. During such a transit period, the star's light is filtered through the planet's atmosphere, giving clues to the mix of gases. Astronomers had calculated the density of water on GJ1214b and they've discovered it could have much more water than Earth. In 2010, astronomers did have some clues that water may be found on GJ1214b because of the hazy atmosphere.

According to the astronomers, there are three types of planets in our solar system -rocky (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars), gas giants (Jupiter and Saturn) and ice giants (Uranus and Neptune). Now they have discovered a fourth type - a water world.
"GJ1214b is like no planet we know of," said Zachory Berta, an astronomer from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, "A huge fraction of its mass is made up of water."
....IBTimes.

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