Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Smallest extrasolar planet found

The smallest planet discovered outside our solar system has been announced by Spanish astronomers. The rocky planet, known by the catchy name GJ 436c, is about five times the size of the Earth and circles a red dwarf star 30 light years away in the constellation Leo. Till now, most of the 300 or so extrasolar planets we've been able to find have been gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn. The importance of this discovery is that we are starting to develop techniques that will allow us to find Earth-sized planets in just a few years. When we start finding Earth-sized planets, we can start sifting through them to find Earth-like planets and candidates for life bearing planets. Then we invade.

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