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50 Alien worlds Found — Some Are ‘Super-Earths’

Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer Blog:

We’re a little less alone in the universe following a discovery by astronomers using an European Southern Observatory telescope located in Chile.

More than 50 "super-Earths and Neptune-type planets" were recently discovered, detected by measuring the light that radiates from stars. This is the largest number planets ever discovered at one time, according to ESO officials.

And they say at least one is a prime candidate for hosting life.

A planet called HD 85512 b is about 3.6 times the mass of Earth and located at the edge of a habitable zone — the area around a star where astronomers believe water may exist as a liquid.

"This is the lowest-mass confirmed planet discovered by the radial velocity method that potentially lies in the habitable zone of its star, and the second low-mass planet discovered by HARPS inside the habitable zone," said Lisa Kaltenegger of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.

The discovery will soon be further detailed at a conference on Extreme Solar Systems in Wyoming. For more, check out this story from Discovery News.