[QODLink]
Archive
Earth-like planet spotted orbiting star
A planet that may be Earth-like, but too hot for life as we know it, has been discovered orbiting a nearby star.
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2005 19:54 GMT
The planet is thought to be too hot for life as we know it
A planet that may be Earth-like, but too hot for life as we know it, has been discovered orbiting a nearby star.

The discovery of the planet, with an estimated radius about twice that of Earth, was announced on Monday at the National Science Foundation.

"This is the smallest extrasolar planet yet detected and the first of a new class of rocky terrestrial planets," Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution in Washington said. "It's like Earth's bigger cousin."

Geoffrey Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, added: "Over 2000 years ago, the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Epicurus argued about whether there were other Earth-like planets.

"Now, for the first time, we have evidence for a rocky planet around a normal star."

Rocky surface?

Although the researchers have no direct proof that the new planet is rocky, its mass means it is not a giant gas planet like Jupiter, they said.

"Over 2000 years ago, the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Epicurus argued about whether there were other Earth-like planets. Now, for the first time, we have evidence for a rocky planet around a normal star"

Geoffrey Marcy,
Professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley

They estimate the planet's mass as 5.9 to 7.5 times that of Earth.

It is orbiting a star called Gliese 876, 15 light years from Earth, with an orbit time of just 1.94 Earth days.

They estimate the surface temperature on the new planet at between 204.44 and 398.89 degrees celsius.

Gliese 876 is a small, red star with about one-third the mass of the sun.

The researchers said that is the smallest star around which planets have been discovered.

Gas planets

In addition to the newly found planet the star has two large gas planets around it.

Butler said the researchers thought that the most probable composition of the planet was similar to inner planets of this solar system - a nickel/iron rock.

"This is the smallest extrasolar planet yet detected and the first of a new class of rocky terrestrial planets. It's like Earth's bigger cousin"

Paul Butler,
The Carnegie Institution

Gregory Laughlin of the Lick Observatory at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said a planet of this mass could have enough gravity to hold onto an atmosphere.

"It would still be considered a rocky planet, probably with an iron core and a silicon mantle. It could even have a dense steamy water layer."

Three other extrasolar planets believed to be of rocky composition have been reported, but they orbit a pulsar - the flashing corpse of an exploded star - rather than a normal type of star.
Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Western fighters have streamed into the Middle East to help 'liberate' Arab countries such as Syria and Libya.
The Pakistani government is proposing reform of the nation's madrassas, which are accused of fostering terrorism.
Weaving and handicrafts are being re-taught to a younger generation of Iraqi Kurds, but not without challenges.
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Featured
Deaths of 13 Sherpas in Nepal has shone a light on dangerous working conditions in the Everest-climbing industry.
Al Jazeera investigation uncovers allegations of beatings and rape in Kenya's ongoing anti-terrorism operation.
Incumbent Joyce Banda has a narrow lead, but anything is possible in Malawi's May 20 elections.
Western fighters have streamed into the Middle East to help 'liberate' Arab countries such as Syria and Libya.
The Pakistani government is proposing reform of the nation's madrassas, which are accused of fostering terrorism.
join our mailing list