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article imageNASA confirms discovery of exoplanet 21 light years away

By Andrew Ellis     Aug 1, 2015 in Science
Pasadena - NASA announced in a press release on July 30th that they had found the closest rocky planet outside our solar system. It's only 21 light years away.
The press release indicates that the planet, officially known as HD 219134b, was spotted using the Spitzer Space Telescope, and that it's a potential "gold mine" for data.
While the discovery may bring excitement to many who want to colonize other planets, NASA also stated that it's not fit to be habitable. It's too close to its host star to be for liquid water to form even though the star is smaller than the sun, according to The Verge.
The planet is also known as a super-Earth, one of many throughout the galaxy but there is little information on them. Scientists have said that the discovery of a planet such as this could help us learn more about the formation of planets and solar systems in general.
This planet is also said to be perfect to be studied by the James Webb Space Telescope set to launch in 2018.
"Webb and future large, ground-based observatories are sure to point at it and examine it in detail,” said Ati Motalebi of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland in the press release.
This news comes a week after an Earth-like planet was found some 1,400 light years away by the famous space telescope Kepler, according to The Verge. That planet takes 385 days to orbit its star in the "habitable zone" which is only 20 percent brighter than the sun.
They've also unlocked some information regarding the newly-discovered rocky planet's solar system. Two are smaller, but orbit close to their host stars like HD 219134b does. The Verge reports that one orbits the star every 6.8 days, is 2.7 times as large as the Earth, and the other has a 47-day orbit as well as being 9 times the size of Earth. Another planet is 62 times the size of Earth, and takes 1,190 days to orbit its star which is 200 million miles away from it.
While they just discovered it there's no question that there is much for NASA to learn about this planet and other super-Earths like it.
"Transiting exoplanets are worth their weight in gold because they can be extensively characterized," said Michael Werner, the project scientist for the Spitzer mission. "This exoplanet will be one of the most studied for decades to come."
More about NASA, Spitzer Space Telescope, Space exploration
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