A team of astronomers led by MIT physicist Josh Winn has observed a "super-Earth" eclipsing its star, which is "right around the corner," at least in astronomical terms.
Only 40 light years away, 55 Cancri e is twice as big as Earth and over eight times as massive.
According to an April 2011 study led by Winn, the exoplanet is most likely "a rock-iron composition supplemented by a significant mass of water, gas, or other light elements," similar to Earth.
Though exoplanets are main suspects for possible extraterrestrial life, the kind of life we have on Earth would not survive on 55 Cancri e: Its surface temperature is about 2,700 degrees Celsius.
But this star system has a lot of value. As the star is relatively close to Earth, it appears 100 times brighter than other stars with known exoplanets.
"Everything we do in astronomy is starving for more light," Winn says in an MIT news release. "The more light a star gives you, the more chances you have of learning something interesting…and everyone’s been waiting for a system like this that you can study in great detail."
"It’s still going to be hard to learn everything about this planet," says Winn. "But at least we have what might be the best system in the sky to study it."
TONIGHT, LOOK UP
- Find out what's in the sky tonight (Sky and Telescope)
- Download this month's free evening sky map (Skymaps)
- Help save the James Webb Space Telescope
- Say NO to carriage horse abuse in New York City (NYClass)
- Due July 21: Tell Bureau of Ocean Energy: No Arctic drilling for Shell until there is proven clean-up plan (Oceana)
- Say YES to Canadian proposal to list polar bear as species of special concern under Species At Risk Act (Nature Canada)
- Say NO to H.R. 2304, which would undermine fish conservation goals by making exemptions from annual catch limit requirements
- Follow 13.7 Billion Years on Twitter
- The New Vegan CEO (Care2)
- Maritime countries agree on first-ever shipping emissions regulation (Guardian)
- Nearly 3,000 fewer New Yorkers died of cancer last year compared to a decade ago (Associated Press)
- Deep Space | Cracking the Universe's Assumed Symmetry
- Deep Space | Looking for the Billy Goat
- Deep Space | The Eye of Gaia
- Deep Space | History of the Cosmos
- Deep Space | Tracking the Lives of Stars
- Deep Space | Eta Carinae's Great Outburst
- Deep Space | Solving the Mystery of Cosmic Dust
- Deep Space | Early Galaxies Grazed on Gas
- Deep Space | Do Aliens Bleach Their Hair?
- Deep Space | The Star that Changed the Universe
- Deep Space | Voyager 1: Mankind's Furthest Exploration Into Space
- We Are Stardust
- It Came from Outer Space
- Hunt for Earth 2
- Planet Hunters
- Hubble Captures a Butterfly
- Kepler and the Gate to the Black Forest
- Basic Chemistry of Life Found on Exoplanet
- July 20: Protest Ringling Bros. Circus at Staples Center, Los Angeles. Join hundreds of activists for a history-making protest of the Ringling Bros. Circus when it opens at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. If you're coming to L.A. for the Animal Rights 2011 National Conference starting July 21, be sure to come a day early and be part of this demo! For more information, contact: Bill@idausa.org.
- July 21-25: Animal Rights 2011 National Conference
- July 31-August 5: Shark Week
- August 21-27: World Water Week
- November: Asteroid very close to Earth
- November 25: Solar Eclipse (4th of 4 partial solar eclipses in 2011)
- December 10: Lunar Eclipse (2nd of 2 total lunar eclipses in 2011)
- Gray Matters: Thinking about thinking (June 2011)
- Flower Power: Stopping to smell the angiosperms (May 2011)
- Animal Cruelty: Looking at the devil within (April 2011)
- Chemical Month: Exploring the vast laboratory of our daily lives (March 2011)
- Africa Month: Visiting the world's second-largest continent (February 2011)
- Reports from 2050: Imagining the future (January 2011)
- Victory Month: Looking at the victories of 2010, made possible by you (December 2010)
- Tree Month: Climbing the perennial woody plants that appeared 375 million years ago (November 2010)
- Food Month: Considering what we put in our mouths (October 2010)