New 'Water World' Confirmed
GJ 1214b water world may yield 'hot ice’ or ‘superfluid water'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2012 8:07 AM CST
Artist's impression of GJ 1214b in front of its star, a red dwarf.   (NASA)

(Newser) – A hot and steamy water world 40 light years away has been identified as the first known member of a whole new class of planets. Researchers using the Hubble space telescope have confirmed that planet GJ 1214b, first spotted in 2009, contains a much higher proportion of water than any other known planet, the BBC reports. It is around 2.7 times the size of Earth, but with seven times the mass—and close enough for it to be relatively easy to study.

"GJ 1214b is like no planet we know of," the lead researcher says. "The high temperatures and pressures would form exotic materials like 'hot ice' or 'superfluid water', substances that are completely alien to our everyday experience." The planet is far too close to its star for life as we know it to exist, but researchers believe it may have started out as an icy planet and moved closer to its sun over the ages, spending billions of years in the "Goldilocks zone" of Earth-like temperatures along the way.