One in Three Stars May Have "Super"-Earths [News]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 - 17:49 in Astronomy & Space

The most detailed survey yet of planets orbiting nearby stars indicates that a full 30 percent of them may harbor jumbo versions of our own planet. Astronomers who presented the finding this week at an international conference also announced they had discovered a star system bearing three such super-Earths--potentially rocky planets up to 10 times as massive as our own.Both results come from the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) instrument at the European Southern Observatory on La Silla mountain in Chile, which looks for tiny changes in the color of starlight that indicate the star is wobbling under the sway of an orbiting planet. The frequency and strength of the wobbles tells researchers the approximate mass of the planet, its distance from the star and the time it takes to complete an orbit. [More]

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