Over 50 new planets discovered

ASTRONOMERS HAVE ANNOUNCED a rich haul of more than 50 new exoplanets, including 16 super-Earths, one of which orbits at the edge of the habitable zone of its star. By studying the properties of all the planets found so far by this project, the team has found that about 40% of stars similar to the Sun have at least one planet lighter than Saturn.

The discoveries were made using the HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6-metre telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) La Silla Observatory in Chile.

The new exoplanets orbit nearby stars, and include sixteen super-Earths. This is the largest number of such planets ever announced at one time.

Planets with a mass between one and ten times that of the Earth are called super-Earths. There are no such planets in our Solar System, but they appear to be very common around other stars. Discoveries of such planets in the habitable zones around their stars are very exciting because—if the planet were rocky and had water, like Earth—they could potentially be an abode of life.

One of the newly discovered planets, HD 85512 b, is estimated to be only 3.6 times the mass of the Earth and is located at the edge of its star’s habitable zone — a narrow zone around a star in which water may be present in liquid form if conditions are right.

Adapted from information issued by ESO / M. Kornmesser.

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