Thursday, August 26, 2004

Swiss Observatory: New Earth-Like Planet Discovered

A worldwide team of astronomers has detected a rocky planet like Earth orbiting around a star 50 light years away, the Financial Times reported Thursday.

The discovery is considered the most important since the first exoplanet was found in 1995. Exoplanets are those which orbit a star other than the sun.

"We believe the new planet has a rocky structure, which is more like Earth than any other exoplanet discovered so far," said Didier Queloz of Switzerland's Geneva Observatory, a member of the planet-hunting team.

The unnamed planet, whose mass is 14 times greater than Earth's, is very close to its parent star only a tenth of the distance between the sun and Earth. Therefore, it would be too hot to support any known form of life. Queloz estimated the surface temperature to be 1,200 degrees.

All 120 of the exoplanets discovered since 1995 then have been gaseous giants somewhat similar to Jupiter, the report said.

Copyright UPI

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