Search for 'Earth's Twin' Finds Similar-Sized Planet

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2009 5:36 PM CDT
Gliese 581.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Astronomers in Chile looking for an Earth-like planet have discovered the closest one in size yet, the BBC reports. Don’t get your hopes up: Though Gliese 581 e, which lies outside our solar system, is just twice as large as Earth, it travels far too close to its sun to support life. Most planets found in far-flung solar systems approximate the enormous size of Jupiter, but more powerful telescopes on the way may help change that.

“This is just one more step in the search for the twin of the Earth,” one of the astronomers said. They used the so-called “wobble” method to glean the size of the planet from its gravitational effect on the sun. But “the type of technology coming along,” an astronomer said, “such as extreme adaptive optics,” could open up a new world, so to speak. “You would be able to see it go around its star and see what it was made of.”