Thursday, 26 January 2006

Finding E.T's Home is reporting the discovery of a planet that is the most earth-like planet found outside of our solar system (yet).
It is 5.5 times the mass of Earth and orbits at a distance comparable to habitable worlds. It lies about 390 million kilometres from its star: if it were inside our Solar System, the planet would sit between Mars and Jupiter.
It was discovered using a technique known as Gravitational Microlensing which is a method first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1912. Microlensing occurs when a massive object in space, like a star, crosses in front of another more distant star. As it passes, the gravity from the foreground object bends the light coming from the background star, temporarily making it look brighter. If the star in the foreground has an orbiting planet, the light is distorted even more, thus making the background star appear even brighter.
But sadly this Earth-like body probably isn't crawling with life. Its dwarf star is so dim that the surface temperature of this planet is thought to be about - 220 °C.
We won't be booking our holidays there any time soon then.

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