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Feb 21 2012

Hubble spies watery spectra on distant super earth

A hypothetical water world orbiting a nearby red dwarf. This planet would be much cooler than GJ 1214B. Click image for more on the latest find.

The Hubble Space Telescope pulled off an interesting feat this month. A super earth designated GJ 1214B orbiting tightly around a red dwarf 40 light years away may be loaded with water:

(CBS News) — Since astronomers know GJ 1214b’s mass and size, they’re able to calculate its density, which turns out to be just 2 grams per cubic centimeter (g/cc). Earth’s density is 5.5 g/cc, while that of water is 1 g/cc. GJ 1214b thus appears to have much more water than Earth does, and much less rock. The alien planet’s interior structure is likely quite different from that of our world. “The high temperatures and high pressures would form exotic materials like ‘hot ice’ or ‘superfluid water,’ substances that are completely alien to our everyday experience,” Berta said.

The planet is far too hot, about 400 to 500° F. But it’s still important as the data tentatively confirms water is abundant in at least one exo-solar system. Since its also ubiquitous here in our own, it’s a solid inference water is present on millions of world throughout the galaxy. Astrobiologists feel water is a big boost for the development and evolution of life. Do the math earthlings …

3 comments

  1. 1
    richardelguru

    Can’t wait!
    “Warp five, Mr Sulu…”
    Damn that lack of a way of getting to these wondrous places.
    :-(

  2. 2
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Great discovery. Interesting exoplanet. :-)

    Reminds me of Gliese 436 b :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gliese_436_b

    only smaller and perhaps wetter. Think there are also few other such worlds now known or suspected as well. Although I could be mistaken and missing something here that makes GJ 1214 very different from those – sounds like its certainly significantly less massive.

    A super earth designated GJ 1214B orbiting tightly around a red dwarf 40 light years away

    Minor nit to pick, sorry, but I think the term “superEarth” here is misleading given how very unearthly this planet along with (almost)all the others dubbed such actually is.

    I much prefer exoplanet hunting astronomer Sara Seager’s suggested term “gas dwarf” – or, maybe, for the rockier examples “rock giants” although mini-Neptunes / Hot neptunes and exo-Neptunes also seem appropriate.

    Thing is we’ve no world quite like this variety in our solar system to compare this with and a huge amount of questions and unknowns about what these planets are really like still.

    But we’re learning more all the time & this is something I find astounding, hopeful, inspiring and just superluminous – beyond merely brilliant.

  3. 3
    lordshipmayhem

    Wonder if Kevin Costner is in this water world, as well?

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