Monday, September 12, 2011

Fifty new exoplanets discovered

Astronomers using a telescope in Chile have discovered 50 previously unknown exoplanets.

The bumper haul of new worlds includes 16 "super-Earths" - planets with a great mass than our own, but below those of gas giants such as Jupiter.

One of these super-Earths orbits inside the habitable zone - the region around a star where conditions could be hospitable to life.

The planets were discovered using the Harps telescope at La Silla in Chile.

The new findings are being presented at a meeting called Extreme Solar Systems in Wyoming, US, and will appear in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Dr Michel Mayor, who led the effort, said the haul included "an exceptionally rich population of super-Earths and Neptune-type planets hosted by stars very similar to our Sun".

He added: "The new results show that the pace of discovery is accelerating." source