[VIDEO] New Planetary Finds Hailed as Breakthroughs

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Georgia McCafferty reports: The two finds, one planet at the edge of our solar system and one just beyond, have both been hailed as major scientific advances.

“One of the goals of astronomy and astrophysics and finding these planets is firstly to really find another Earth. And part of the reason of finding another Earth is that we ultimately do want to find life in the universe. It’s a question that weighs on everyone’s mind.”

Commenting on one of the planets, Brad Tucker, an astronomer from Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra, Australia who was not involved in the research, said it “probably gives us the best chance for life outside our solar system right now.”

“One of the goals of astronomy and astrophysics and finding these planets is firstly to really find another Earth,” he added. “And part of the reason of finding another Earth is that we ultimately do want to find life in the universe. It’s a question that weighs on everyone’s mind.”

Lying on the edge of our solar system, a new, rocky planet close to the size of Earth and named GJ 1132b, is the discovery that holds the most potential for finding new life to date, according to astronomers.

The scientists who discovered it it said its small size and proximity — it’s three times closer than any other similar object found orbiting a star — “bodes well for studies of the planet’s atmosphere,” according to their report in the journal, Nature.

“By being able to find evidence of these smaller, more inner planets, these rocky planets that we have in our solar system, we’re really realizing that the planets are probably in the trillions in our galaxy alone.”

“GJ 1132b (is) arguably the most important planet ever found outside the solar system,” Drake Deming, an astronomer at the University of Maryland said in an accompanying letter in the journal. He added that it’s proximity will “allow astronomers to study the planet with unprecedented fidelity.”

“It’s more habitable, it’s less harsh and this gives us a good strong chance of actually finding life or something as opposed to the other Earth-like planets found to date.”

Found moving across a “red dwarf” star that is only a fifth of the size of the world’s sun, the planet has a radius only 16% larger than Earth’s, and has surface temperatures that reach 260 degrees Celsius. Although that’s too hot to retain liquid water or sustain life as we know it, Tucker said it was cool enough to support some of the basic building blocks of life, and possibly support life forms like bacteria.

“We haven’t even found anything close to this so far,” he said.

“It’s more habitable, it’s less harsh and this gives us a good strong chance of actually finding life or something as opposed to the other Earth-like planets found to date.”

The planet also completes an orbit or passes its star once every 1.6 days, providing more opportunities for research and measurement than any other planet has provided to date, Tucker added.

“By being able to find evidence of these smaller, more inner planets, these rocky planets that we have in our solar system, we’re really realizing that the planets are probably in the trillions in our galaxy alone.”…(read more)

Source: CNN.com



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