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January 25, 2012

Discovery of Super-Earth Planet (Image 2)

Artist's conception of the super-Earth discovered orbiting GJ1214, a dim, red dwarf star located 40 light-years away. GJ1214b was found by the MEarth project, which uses off-the-shelf amateur technology to spot transiting exoplanets. GJ1214b is about 2.7 times the size of the Earth and weighs 6.5 times as much. Models suggest it is made of about three-fourths water and one-fourth rock. Observations suggest that it also has a substantial hydrogen/helium atmosphere.

The MEarth (pronounced "mirth") Project is an array of eight identical 16 inch-diameter RC Optical Systems telescopes that monitor a preselected list of 2,000 red dwarf stars. Each telescope perches on a highly accurate Software Bisque Paramount and funnels light to an Apogee U42 charged-coupled device chip, that many amateurs also use. To learn more, see the NSF Discovery story Waterworld Discovered Transiting a Nearby Star. [Research supported by National Science Foundation grant AST 08-07690.] [Image 2 of 3 related images. See Image 3.] (Date of Image: 2009)

Credit: David Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

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