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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Europeans Discover 32 New Planets

From Yahoo! News: Europeans Find 32 New Planets Outside Solar System by Seth Borenstein

WASHINGTON – European astronomers have found 32 new planets outside our solar system, adding evidence to the theory that the universe has many places where life could develop. Scientists using the European Southern Observatory telescope didn't find any planets quite the size of Earth or any that seemed habitable or even unusual. But their announcement increased the number of planets discovered outside the solar system to more than 400.

Six of the newly found planets are several times bigger than Earth, increasing the population of so-called super-Earths by more than 30 percent. Most planets discovered so far are far bigger, Jupiter-sized or even larger.

Two of the newly discovered planets were as small as five times the size of Earth and one was up to five times larger than Jupiter.

Astronomer Stephane Udry of the University of Geneva said the results support the theory that planet formation is common, especially around the most common types of stars.

"I'm pretty confident that there are Earth-like planets everywhere," Udry said in a Web-based news briefing from a conference in Portugal. "Nature doesn't like a vacuum. If there is space to put a planet there, there will be a planet there."

What astronomers said is especially exciting is that about 40 percent of sun-like stars have planets that are closer to being Earth-sized than the size of Jupiter. Jupiter's mass is more than 300 times that of Earth's.

These discoveries were made through the Europeans' High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, which is located at an observatory in Chile. NASA scientists, in an attempt to confirm the Europeans' findings, focused the Hubble telescope on one of the newly discovered planets, and the high-powered telescope revealed that life does exist in outer space:


OK, well, it still doesn't prove intelligent life...