Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Extrasolar 'Water World' May Have Been Found

For more details, follow THIS link to the original article on MSNBC's Cosmicblog.

Basically, astronomers have spotted a so-called 'super-earth' in orbit about a G-class star 40 light years away that may have an abundant amount of water.

But don't get too excited about finding exotic alien mermaids on it just yet. The planet wouldn't be a fun place for a human to go traipsing about on without an armored space suit on. Its 2 to 10 times the mass of Earth, meaning it would likely have unpleasantly high gravity as well as potentially crushing atmospheric pressure, depending on its composition. Its also unpleasantly close to its primary, with an estimated surface temperature of 400 degrees F.

But still, because of its estimated density, experts are fairly certain it may hold significant amounts of water, even if it would be in the form of water vapor. Plus, depending on its atmospheric composition, the high atmospheric pressure might be enough to keep surface water liquid even at its estimated temperatures.

Discovery of the presence of water on an extrasolar terrestrial world would be a major find, and a good indication that other worlds like Earth, with abundant liquid water and a thriving biosphere, may actually be out there among the wilds of the Milky Way. Just something to keep an eye on in the coming months as astronomers turn other instruments toward that very distant world and see if they can discover anything more.

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