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Small Earth-like Planet Discovered
NTDTV
4/25/2008

Spanish astronomers announced yesterday that they have discovered the smallest planet located to date outside the solar system. It is located 30 light years from earth. They are hopeful of finding soon an earth-twin planet with their new detection technique.

Spanish astronomers have located the smallest planet thus far discovered outside of the solar system.

Their new detection technique allows them to detect planets much smaller than the gas giants that previously were the only planet types scientists were able to detect in other solar systems.

This new planet is a small rocky ball, like Earth, rather than the spinning masses of slushy gasses that form the other planets hitherto discovered.

The astronomers hope to be able to identify Earthlike planets with their new detection method.


The planet (in yellow circle) is near the constellation Leo. (NTD News)
The rocky planet known as GJ 436T has a mass five times that of Earth. This makes it the smallest extrasolar planet identified so far. It is located 30 light years from earth in the constellation of Leo.

GJ 436T was discovered by Spanish astronomers led by Ignasi Ribas. Their detection method involves analyze distortions in the orbit of another larger planet.


Spanish astronomer Ignasi Ribas was part of the team that located the planet. (NTD News)
In this case we dont use the perturbations on a star but we use the perturbations on another planet that was already known in the system, explained astromomer Ignasi Ribas. That planet has an eccentric orbit, an elliptical orbit instead of being circular which is a surprise, was a surprise.

Mr. Ribas is hopeful of finding soon earth-like planets with this new technique.

This is a step in this direction, into finding more and more earth-like objects,Mr. Ribas to an NTD reporter. Probably in the near future, less than decades, we will have the first earth twin probably already detected.

Mr. Ribas says the new planet is uninhabitable due to the distance that separates it from its star. Apparently, to sustain life a planet must have a mass similar to that of the earth, and a similar orbital distance from its star as that of the earth from the sun.

Additional reporting by James Fish

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