GJ 1214b: An Alien Super-Earth

Scientists and Astronomers, on Wednesday, discovered an alien planet which they classified as a “super-Earth”. The planet, designated GJ 1214b, orbits 40 light-years away from Earth and is likely to be covered with water vapour, or a thick haze.

Artist's impression of 'Super-Earth' GJ 1214b

As reported by Foxnews.com, scientists got a unique chance to study the planet and its atmosphere as it passed directly in front of its parent star, which is in Earth’s line of sight. The reason 'GJ 1214b' is called a super-Earth is because it's larger than Earth, but smaller than gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn. The planet cannot support life, as it is too warm for liquid water to exist.

The analysis of the planet light spectrum revealed that GJ 1214b’s atmosphere has a featureless signature and concluded that the planet is most likely dominated by water vapour, or a haze of clouds. Due to the cloud cover blocking the chemicals that the scientists are looking for, they will soon try to use infrared light which may be able to penetrate the cloud cover.

The scientists are thrilled about the discovery and say that ‘Super-Earths’ are on the frontier of exoplanet research due to the fact that the gas giants are easier to detect than smaller, dim planets like Earth.

Published Date: Dec 04, 2010 04:28 pm | Updated Date: Dec 04, 2010 04:28 pm