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Nasa Finds Its First ‘Super-Earth’ With An Atmosphere

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This is the first time that we have been capable to find the spectral fingerprints that show the gases present in the atmosphere of a super-Earth.

Astrophysicists at NASA, working with the ESA and the University College London, announced Tuesday that they have found a “super-Earth” exoplanet with an atmosphere for the first time.

The Hubble telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) first discoverd the planet, dubbed 55 Cancri e, which is only around 40 light years away. Super-earths are merely rocky planets that are larger than the Earth — in this case, eight times bigger. They’re widely supposed to be the most common type of rocky planet in the galaxy.
“This is a very thrilling result as it’s the first time that we have been capable to find the spectral fingerprints that show the gases present in the atmosphere of a super-Earth,” UCL PhD student Angelos Tsiaras said in a statement. “The observations of 55 Cancri e’s atmosphere propose that the planet has managed to cling on to a substantial amount of hydrogen and helium from the nebula from which it originally formed.”

This artist’s impression shows the super-Earth 55 Cancri e in front of its parent star. Using observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and new analytic software scientists were able to analyse the composition of its atmosphere. It was the first time this was possible for a super-Earth. 55 Cancri e is about 40 light-years away and orbits a star slightly smaller, cooler and less bright than our Sun. As the planet is so close to its parent star, one year lasts only 18 hours and temperatures on the surface are thought to reach around 2000 degrees Celsius.

Unluckily, 55 Cancri e probably doesn’t sustain life. Its atmosphere seems to be comprised almost completely of hydrogen and helium with no traces of water. Plus, the planet is so close to its star that a year there lasts 18 Earth-hours and the surface of the planet can get as hot as 2,000 degrees C.

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“Nasa Finds Its First ‘Super-Earth’ With An Atmosphere”