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Getting closer: Super-Earth found in a star’s habitable zone

8 Nov 2012, 13:39 UTC
Getting closer: Super-Earth found in a star’s habitable zone
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Well now, this is an interesting discovery: astronomers have found what looks like a "super-Earth" – a planet more massive than Earth but still smaller than a gas giant – orbiting a nearby star at the right distance to have liquid water on it! Given that, it might – might – be Earthlike.

This is pretty cool news. We’ve found planets like this before, but not very many! And it gets niftier: the planet has at least five siblings, all of which orbit its star closer than it does.
Now let me be clear: this is a planet candidate; it has not yet been confirmed. Reading the journal paper (PDF), though, the data look pretty good. It may yet turn out not to be real, but for the purpose of this blog post I’ll just put this caveat here, call it a planet from here on out, and fairly warned be ye, says I.
The star is called HD 40307, and it’s a bit over 40 light years away (pretty close in galactic standards, but I wouldn’t want to walk there). It’s a K2.5 dwarf, which ...

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