Our planet just became less unique. Preliminary findings probably show water vapor in the atmosphere of Gliese 1214b a planet roughly earth-like in scale right here in our own little galactic neighborhood.
Scientists Find A Water-Rich Planet Outside Our Solar System
By Alex Knapp
Japanese scientists have determined that a planet outside our solar system that most likely has a water-rich atmosphere. The planet, Gilese 1214b, is only 40 light years from Earth.
Discovered in 2009, Gilese 1214b is what’s known as a “super-Earth” – bigger than Earth but smaller than a gas giant. In this case, it’s about 2.7 times bigger than Earth.
The researchers intend to do more observations of the planet to more definitively rule out the possibility of a hydrogen atmosophere for Gilese 1214b. However, given the facts to date, a water-rich planet is still the best possibility. Once that’s confirmed, astronomers will have a better idea about how super-Earths, which are fairly common throughout are galaxy, form in the first place.If this finding is confirmed this would a major discovery on another world.
A SuperEarth Planet
This report comes from Astrobiology Magazine:
A Super Time for SuperEarths
By Keith Cooper
The headlines have been coming thick and fast – a trio of SuperEarths in the habitable zone of Gliese 667C, two probably rocky planets in the Goldilocks zone around Kepler-62 and possible SuperEarths orbiting Tau Ceti and HD 40307 at just the right distance for liquid water to exist on their surfaces, albeit under certain conditions. These are all just from the past twelve months. Should those exoplanet hunters who are seeking out Earth 2, a planet where life as we know it could possibly exist, start to feel excited?
Not yet. Our knowledge of these planets is woefully incomplete. However, the times may be changing. While we cannot yet determine whether a planet is hospitable to life, David Kipping of the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has led a team of astronomers to develop a new theoretical model that can tell us with one swift glance whether a SuperEarth – a world with two to ten times the mass of our planet and up to twice the diameter – has an atmosphere that might not be suitable for life. Consequently we could rule such worlds out of our search for analogs to Earth. It’s all about whether a planet has an atmosphere and how that atmosphere is connected to the relationship between a planet’s mass and diameter.
The model that Kipping has developed, along with Harvard’s Dimitar Sasselov and Princeton’s David Spiegel, allows an astronomer to plug in these numbers for mass and radius and, with the knowledge of the density, figure out if a planet – in particular a SuperEarth – has a light but extended atmosphere or a relatively thin, heavy atmosphere.