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New Super-Earths detected in nearby star's habitable zone (Image 3)

One of several planet candidates around a star known as Gliese 667C

An artist's impression of one of several planet candidates around a star known as Gliese 667C based on the most likely climate models for Earth and Super-Earth mass planets around red-dwarf stars. Pictured here is a cloudy water world. The surface looks fuzzy due to the high optical depth, although the atmosphere would still be mostly transparent in the optical.

New observations of a star known as Gliese 667C by a team of National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported researchers have revealed a system with at least six planets, including a record-breaking three super-Earths orbiting in the star's "habitable zone." Super-Earths are planets more massive than the Earth, but less massive than planets like Uranus or Neptune, and are within their stars habitable zone--not too hot and not too cold--a thin shell around a star in which water may be present in liquid form if conditions are right. This is the first planetary system found to have a fully packed habitable zone.

The team combined new observations from the Keck Observatory in Hawaii and other telescopes with extensive data collected previously by the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher at the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-meter telescope in Chile. [Research supported by NSF grant AST 03-07493.]

To learn more, see the NSF press release Astronomers Detect Three 'Super-Earths' in Nearby Star's Habitable Zone. (Date of Image: June 24, 2013) [Image 3 of 3 related images. Back to Image 1.]

Credit: René Heller, Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam, Germany

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