More than four dozen exoplanets, including a “Super-Earth” that could support life, have been discovered, the Eastern Southern Observatory (ESO) announced this morning. It’s the largest discovery of exoplanets reported at one time, the ESO stated in a release.
This artist’s impression shows the planet orbiting the Sun-like star HD 85512 in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sail). This planet is one of sixteen super-Earths discovered by the HARPS instrument.
Of the 50 planets discovered, 16 are “Super-Earths,” or planets that have a mass similar to our planet.
“These planets will be amount the best targets for future space telescopes to look for signs of life in the planet’s atmosphere by looking for chemical signatures such as evidence of oxygen,” stated Francesco Pepe (Geneva Observatory, Switzerland), the lead author of one of the recent papers.
One planet in particular, HD 85512 b, is located at the edge of the habitable zone -a narrow zone around a star in which water may be present in liquid form if conditions are right, the release stated.
The ESO has found only one other Super-Earth that could support life. That planet, Gliese 581 d, was discovered in 2007.
The planets were found using the HARPS spectograph on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. Since scientists started using the HARPS system to detect exoplanets, about 150 new planets have been discovered.
NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered 20 exoplanets, however, it has also found more than 1,200 planetary candidates.