News about weird and bizarre happenings from around the world.

Friday, 18 December 2009

A Weird, Wonderful Waterworld?

With the count of exoplanets (planets known to orbit other stars) now at 415, it's not often that a new find makes much of a splash in the astronomical world, let alone the news media. And the competition for getting noticed is going to get harder, now that NASA's Kepler mission is working on its quest to find even small, Earthlike worlds out in the Great Beyond.

An artist's concept of the dim red dwarf GJ 1214 and its close-orbiting waterworld. The planet is actually one-eighth the apparent diameter of the star.
David A. Aguilar / CfAFor example, so far this month, ground-based planet hunters headed by Paul Butler and Steven Vogt announced that a total of three smallish worlds (with minimum masses of 5, 18, and 24 Earths) orbit the star 61 Virginis, a near-twin of the Sun just 28 light-years away. And the same group announced an 8-Earth-mass world, and hints of two more, orbiting HD 1461, a close copy of the Sun 76 light-years away in Cetus.

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