We’ve got more planets than we know what to do with now that astronomers have discovered 114 new ones, including 60 new planets orbiting stars near our own solar system.
The most exciting find is an extremely hot “super-Earth”, which is found in the fourth-nearest star system to the sun and has a rocky, Earth-like surface. It’s not clear whether there is water on this exciting new planet or not.
Scientists have given the super-Earth the less catchy name of Gliese 411b and say that it shows that “virtually all” our nearest stars have planets orbiting them, something that was in question until now.
This means that the chances of there being more planets like our own is pretty high – the researchers went as far as to say that some of these planets “could be like Earth”.
To make the new discoveries, astronomers took nearly 61,000 individual observations of 1,600 stars over a 20-year period.
To do so, they used the Keck-I telescope in Hawaii – that’s one of the world’s largest telescopes – as part of the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey which was started in 1996 by astronomers from the University of California and the Carnegie Institute of Science in Washington.
There was one Europe-based researcher involved, Dr Mikko Tuomi from the University of Hertfordshire, who said, “It is fascinating to think that when we look at the nearest stars, all of them appear to have planets orbiting them.
“This is something astronomers were not convinced about, even as little as five years ago.
“These new planets also help us better understand the formation processes of planetary systems and provide interesting targets for future efforts to image the planets directly.”