Newfound 'Super-Earth' Might Support Life

It's one of 50 new exoplanets found by European telescope
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2011 2:14 PM CDT
This artist rendering provided by The Europeans Southern Observatory shows the planet orbiting the Sun-like star HD 85512 in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sail).   (AP Photo/artist rendering provided by The Europeans Southern Observatory)

(Newser) – A telescope at the European Southern Observatory has spotted 50 new exoplanets—and one of them is a so-called "super-Earth" that might just be habitable, Live Science reports. The telescope actually found 16 super-Earths—potentially rocky worlds sporting more mass than our beloved home world—but one designated HD 85512 b stands out because it orbits within the edge of its star’s theoretically habitable zone.

The planet is relatively small, at 3.6 times more massive than Earth, and relatively close, at a mere 35 light-years away. Researchers think that with more study they can determine if there’s a possibility the planet harbors water. “This is the lowest-mass confirmed planet discovered … that potentially lies in the habitable zone of its star,” an exoplanet expert says. “I think we’re in for an incredibly exciting time. … We’re actually going out there to discover brand new worlds.”

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