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Archive for Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Astronomers find 32 more planets

October 20, 2009

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— 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.

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