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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rocky, hellish world

Some interesting extrasolar planet news:

Scientists have discovered the first confirmed Earthlike planet outside our solar system, they announced Wednesday.

"This is the first confirmed rocky planet in another system," astronomer Artie Hatzes told CNN, contrasting the solid planet with gaseous ones like Jupiter and Saturn.

But "Earthlike" is a relative term.

The planet's composition may be similar to that of Earth, but its environment is more like a vision of hell, the project's lead astronomer said.

It is so close to the star it orbits "that the place may well look like Dante's Inferno, with a probable temperature on its 'day face' above 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius) and minus-328 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 200 degrees Celsius) on
its night face," said Didier Queloz of Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, the project leader.

Hatzes, explaining that one side of the body is always facing the star and the other side always faces away, said the side "facing the sun is probably molten. The other side could actually have ice" if there is water on the planet.

Me: And maybe there's a transitional zone between the two sides. Who knows what might be found there?

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