A new “super-Earth” has been discovered orbiting a distant star, say astronomers.
The remote world lies 9,000 light years away and weighs 13 times as much as our own Earth does.
At -330 degrees Fahrenheit, it is one of the coldest planets ever discovered outside our solar system.
It has a rocky core and an icy surface and it is orbiting a star half the size of the sun.
Most planets previously found around other stars have been giant balls of gas like Jupiter, the king of our own solar system.
Until around a decade ago, scientists had no evidence of what other solar systems might be like. Since then, some 170 planets have been discovered, nearly all of them similar to Jupiter.
But the leader of the international team that has found the new planet belives that others like it will be found around more than a third of other stars.
Professor Andrew Gould, of Ohio State University, said yesterday: “This icy super-Earth dominates the region around its star that in our solar system is populated by the gas-giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn.
“We’ve never seen a system like this before, because we’ve never had the means to find them.”
He added: “We believe these icy super-Earths are pretty common. Roughly 35 percent of all stars have them.”
The planet was found using a phenomenon called gravitational microlensing. It occurs when a massive object such as a star crosses in front of another star in the background.
The foreground star’s strong gravity bends the light rays from the more distant star and magnifies them like a lens.”
© Paul Sutherland. Unauthorised reproduction forbidden.
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