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Artist's conception of the super-Earth discovered orbiting GJ1214, a dim red dwarf star located 40 light-years away. GJ1214b was found by the MEarth project, which uses off-the-shelf amateur technology to spot transiting exoplanets. GJ1214b is about 2.7 times the size of Earth and weighs 6.5 times as much. Models suggest it is made of about three-fourths water and one-fourth rock. Observations suggest that it also has a substantial hydrogen/helium atmosphere.
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Image Courtesy of David Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

Waterworld Discovered Orbiting a Nearby Star
News story originally written on December 16, 2009

Astronomers have discovered a planet about 40 light-years from Earth that contains water. The planet, called GJ1214b, is a super-Earth, which means it is close to the size of Earth. It is too hot to contain life, but it is more like Earth than any other planet that has been discovered outside our solar system.

They discovered the super-Earth using telescopes that are the same size as telescopes many non-scientists have in their backyards. GJ1214b orbits a red dwarf star called GJ1214. This star is about one-fifth the size of the Sun and isn't very bright compared to the Sun.

"Since we found the super-earth using a small ground-based telescope, this means that anyone else with a similar telescope and a good CCD camera can detect it too. Students around the world can now study this super-earth!" said David Charbonneau of CfA, lead author and head of the MEarth project.

Last modified March 30, 2010 by Becca Hatheway.

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