Agence France Presse via Yahoo! News: Scientists discover Earth-like, water-rich planet: study.
PARIS (AFP) – Astronomers have discovered a new Earth-like planet that is larger than our own and may be more than half covered with water, according to a study published Wednesday in the science journal Nature.
The so-called "super Earth" is about 42 light years away in another solar system and has a radius nearly 2.7 times larger than that of our planet, according to the study by the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.
The discovery of the planet, called GJ 1214b, represents a "major step forward" in the search for worlds similar to the Earth, added the University of California's Geoffrey Marcy in a commentary also in Nature.
The "newfound world" is too hot to sustain life as we know it, said the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in a statement.
Its density suggests however it "is composed of about three-fourths water and other ices and one fourth-rock," it said. "There are also tantalising hints that the planet has a gaseous atmosphere."
Its temperature is estimated at between 280 and 120 degrees Celsius (536 and 248 degrees Fahrenheit) with its host star about one-fifth the size of the Sun, according to the scientists.
"Despite its hot temperature, this appears to be a waterworld," says Zachory Berta, a graduate student who first spotted hints of the planet's presence.
"It is much smaller, cooler and more Earthlike than any other known exoplanet," he said in the statement.