Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Other Earths?

Two teams of astronomers announced today the discovery of a new class of planets that are tiny compared to the gas giants previously detected outside of our solar system. Indeed, one of the two Neptune-sized spheres they found may have a solid surface and temperature conducive to life.

"We are closer to answering the question, 'Are we alone in the universe?'" said Anne Kinney, director of NASA's Universe Division, Science Mission Directorate. "We aim to answer that question by looking for planets, eventually imaging them and ultimately diagnosing the presence of life on those planets."One of the planets is 41 light years from Earth and the other is about 33 light years away. UC Berkeley's star planet hunter Geoff Marcy was a member of one of the teams that revealed their discoveries at a NASA press conference this afternoon: "If you look at the 135 or so extrasolar planets found so far, it's clear that nature makes more of the smaller planets than the larger ones," he said. "We've found more Saturn-size planets than Jupiter-size planets, and now it appears there are more Neptune-size planets than Saturn-size. That means there's an even better chance of finding Earths, and maybe more of them than all the other planets we've found so far."
Thanks Scotty. Beam me up? (sorry)

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