More reports on: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Researchers uncover watery exo-planet 40 light-years from earth news
23 February 2012

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered a new kind of planet, a ''waterworld'' concealed by a soupy, vaporous atmosphere, a press release from HubbleSite said. According to scientists, the ''waterworld,'' or planet GJ1214b, is smaller than Uranus but bigger than earth.

The ''waterworld'' was identified by Zachory Berta of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and his colleagues using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

According to Berta, GJ1214b was like no known planet, with a huge fraction of its mass made up of water.

The MEarth Project, headed up by CfA's David Charbonneau, located the ''waterworld'' back in 2009, and according to scientists it was about 2.7 times earth's diameter and weighed nearly 7 times as much. Unlike the earth, which orbited the sun once a year, the ''waterworld'' orbited a red-dwarf star every 38 hours. It is 1.3 million miles away from the red-dwarf star, which meant it had a temperature of approximately 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

In their first study titled, A super-Earth transiting a nearby low-mass star in 2009, Charbonneau and his team of researchers said, ''We find that the planetary mass and radius are consistent with a composition of primarily water enshrouded by a hydrogen-helium envelope that is only 0.05 per cent of the mass of the planet.'' The study further said ''As the star is small and only 13 parsecs away, the planetary atmosphere is amenable to study with current observatories.'' The researchers carefully examined the ''waterworld'' over the next three years.

In 2010, CfA scientist Jacob Bean and his colleagues reported their study of the atmosphere of the ''waterworld,'' had revealed that it was primarily made up of water. According to The HubbleSite press release the observation could have been made based on the soupy, vaporous atmosphere of the ''waterworld.''

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Researchers uncover watery exo-planet 40 light-years from earth