As a Time magazine report states, it's no longer breaking news when a new planet is found, after around 400 have been discovered since the 1990s. But today the news of an extraordinary exoplantary find has exploded all over the web.
Harvard astronomer David Charbonneau and his international team of scientists have found a new "super-Earth" planet in the constellation Ophiuchus, a mere 40 light-years away. The planet, called GJ 1214b, is circling a dim red star called GJ 1214. GJ 1214b is bigger than earth, with temperatures far warmer than Earths (374°F/190°C ), and an atmosphere makes the pressure a lot higher than on Earth - "crushing," as Charbonneau describes it.
So what makes this planet so special? That "crushing" pressure means it has the potential to have liquid water. Water, as it turns out, can remain in liquid state under pressure at 212°F (100°C). While it is too big to be considered a second Earth, it is close. Apparently most planets are much bigger. But the most important feature is the probability of water. And the fact it was found, as it isn't orbiting a star like our own sun.
Charbonneau's team intentionally focused on small, dim red stars, known as M-dwarfs. The team expected to find a planet like GJ 1214b in two years, but it only took them six months. That hopefully means they'll have even more time to study it.