Thursday, May 17, 2012

Light Detected From Super Earth

With me being into astronomy for the obvious reasons (:P), this article kinda tickled my fancy when I came across it. We've been finding various planets beyond our own Sol System for not that long actually, so it's always exciting news when we hear of what other bodies are out. Due to our current limitations, we're mainly finding Jovian (gas giant planets), in part due to the fact that these guys are. . . well. . . BIG! So when we find a terrestrial world (solid planets like Earth, Mars, Venus, and Jupiter), which tends to be a lot smaller than what we're normally able to see, I tend to turn my head and go, "Say what? Ooh!" And NASA just did that.

Their Spitzer Space Telescope detected light from Planet 55 Cancri e. It's being called a Super Eath because its estimates indicate that it has 8 times our mass and is twice our size. Now, now. Before you get too excited, no, this doesn't mean we've discovered a planet that is just like Earth. Due too its closeness to its star, I'm guessing it's more likely equivalent to Mercury, even though scientist are saying it could be very similar to Neptune "if you pulled Neptune in toward our sun and watched its atmosphere boil away." This planet orbits its star 41 light-years from Earth, and  a year on it will lasts just 18 hours.

So, this planet was first detected way back in '04, and we've never been able to get actual infrared light from the super Earth world until now. This is a big deal because Spitzer can search for possible worlds that may be habitable for us Earthling in the future. Granted, we still have to find out how to manage FTL (faster-than-light), in the meantime, but hey. No harm in seeing what's good to shop for while we're working on that, eh? ^_^

If you want to read more on the article, which includes future NASA projects and more of 55 Cancri e's specks, then look at the News link. 

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