BOSTON, Dec. 17 (UPI) — A Harvard astronomer spotted a planet 2.7 times the size of Earth only 40 light-years away in the constellation Ophiuchus, a scientist said.
Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley, called the discovery by Harvard’s David Charbonneau “extraordinary” because when planet hunters search for life-supporting planets, they usually focus on far-away stars that are large and hot like our solar system’s sun. Charbonneau, however, focused on about 2,000 small, dim, red stars called M-dwarfs near Earth, CNN reported Wednesday.
“It’s a top-of-the-top discovery in the quest for Earth-size planets,” said Marcy about the planet that has been named GJ 1214b.
Charbonneau said, however, it is too soon to conclude scientists have found the site of potential exosolar planetary life.
“What you want (for life) is a nice toasty ocean with a little bit of atmosphere. That’s not going to happen here. I think it would be foolish to say categorically that (GJ 1214b) doesn’t have life. But we have no basis for thinking it could,” Charbonneau said.
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