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Astronomers find 'super Earth' around another star; call it Rocky

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ESO/L. Calcada

(Read caption) Artist's impression of what the rocky "super Earth" CoRoT-7b might look like -- very hot and bothered.

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Quick! Before you begin reading, drop down to the bottom of the post, activate the YouTube link, then quickly scroll back up here (all you really need is the sound).

Laydeeezzz and gentlemun, boyzzz and girlzzz, an international team of astronomers on the Third Rock from the sun gives you the best evidence yet for a rocky planet -- not too much bigger than Earth -- orbiting another star.

The planet is called CoRoT-7b. And it appears to have a sibling super-Earth, CoRoT-7c, though much less is known about it. This makes the system the first dual super-Earth system astronomers have found. The team summarized its findings today at the European Planetary Science Congress, meeting this week in Postdam, Germany.

You can find a lay-language summary here.  You can find a PDF of the formal results, accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, here.

CoRoT-7b is the smallest exoplanet found so far. It's slightly more than 1.5 times as large as Earth. But any vague resemblance stops there.

The parent star -- 500 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros --  is some 1.5 billion years old. The planet orbits its star at a distance of less then 2 million miles, giving it a "year" that lasts about 20 hours.

With an orbit that close, the team estimates that the temperatures on the planet's surface range somewhere between 1,527 to 2,327 degrees Celsius on the sunlit portion (think molten on the surface) and a frosty -200 degrees C on the night portion.

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