Posted by: earthandbeyond | June 4, 2008

Smallest exoplanet around a normal star to date discovered

The search for extrasolar planets just keeps getting more interesting. A new planet has been discovered orbiting a normal star that is only 3 times Earth’s mass. The star is possibly a brown dwarf, so it cannot sustain nuclear fusion. But due to uncertainty, it could have enough mass to undergo hydrogen fusion. The star is MOA-2007-BLG-192L, and the planet is MOA-2007-BLG-192Lb. The star is 3000 light years from Earth. While it’s currently unknown what the planet is like, there are some theories, as the article suggests. It orbits the star at a distance similar to Venus’ orbit, but due to the star’s low temperature, the planet would be very cold. However, because the planet is so large, it is likely to be heated internally, and provide enough heat to make it as warm as Earth. The theorized atmosphere is thick, and the planet could be covered by a thick water ocean. Below is the artist’s conception. Theoretically, a brown dwarf would appear magenta, not brown.

Courtesy National Science Foundation

The search for Earth sized extrasolar planets will only get more exciting, especially when the Terrestrial Planet Finder is launched, if it finally receives funding.

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