Gliese 581 again! Lightest exoplanet yet discovered orbiting Gliese 581

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yes, another exoplanet close to the size of Earth! I'm really, really starting to like this Gliese 581 system. Perhaps we should start thinking of a real name for it now that we see it in the news so much.

This planet (Gliese 581 e) is unfortunately too close to its host star to host life (according to life as we know it of course), but the team that discovered it also refined the orbit of Gliese 581 d, discovered in 2007, placing that one in the habitable zone. Gliese 581 d has a mass 7.7 times that of the Earth, which is half the mass of Uranus, and it could possibly be completely covered in water.

In spite of the fact that the new planet isn't in the habitability zone of the star, the mere fact that we were able to discover a planet as small as this one sends shivers down my spine. Very, very close now.

And the best part about this team? This:

These amazing discoveries are the outcome of more than four years of observations using the most successful low-mass-exoplanet hunter in the world, the HARPS spectrograph attached to the 3.6-metre ESO telescope at La Silla, Chile.


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