Astronomers claim biggest haul of other worlds

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Paris: Astronomers recently unveiled the biggest haul of more than 50 planets orbiting other stars, including the planet called ‘super-Earth’ which inhabits a zone where, providing conditions are right, water could exist in liquid form.

“It is the biggest single tally in the history of exoplanet hunting since the very first world beyond the Solar System was spotted in 1995,” the European Southern Observatory (ESO) said. This richest haul of planets, since the beginning of exoplanet hunting, includes 16 new super-Earths.

The planets were detected using the HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.

The findings were presented at a conference on Extreme Solar Systems in Moran, Wyoming, attended by 350 exoplanet specialists.

A super-Earth is between one and 10 times the mass of the Earth. It does not necessarily mean that the world is rocky, as opposed to gassy, or that the conditions for life exist.

However, one of the 16 new ‘super-Earths’, called HD 85512 b, which is estimated to be only 3.6 times the mass of the Earth, is orbiting at an intriguingly promising distance from its star.

It is just at the far edge of the so-called Goldilocks zone, where the temperature should be balmy enough for water to exist in liquid form rather than as ice or a gas.
These results add more hope to astronomers and they feel that they are close to discovering other small rocky habitable planets around stars similar to our Sun.