Source: China Daily

04-23-2009 11:07

Special Report:   Tech Max

BEIJING, April 22 -- Astronomers found on Tuesday two planets that look very familiar to the Earth. One is close to the right size. The other is in the right place.

An artist's impression of 'Planet e' , forground left, released by the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere Tuesday April 21, 2009. Exoplanet researcher Michel Mayor announced Tuesday the discovery of the lightest exoplanet found so far. The planet, 'e', in the famous system Gliese 581, in the constellation of Libra and 20.5 light years (192 trillion km or 119 trillion miles) away, is only about twice the mass of Earth.(Photo Source:
An artist's impression of 'Planet e' , forground left, released
by the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the
Southern Hemisphere Tuesday April 21, 2009. Exoplanet researcher
Michel Mayor announced Tuesday the discovery of the lightest
exoplanet found so far. The planet, 'e', in the famous system 
Gliese 581, in the constellation of Libra and 20.5 light years
(192 trillion km or 119 trillion miles) away, is only about twice
the mass of Earth.(Photo Source:

European researchers said they not only found the smallest exoplanet ever, called Gliese 581 e, but realized that a neighboring planet discovered earlier, Gliese 581 d, was in the prime habitable zone for potential life.

"The Holy Grail of current exoplanet research is the detection of a rocky, Earth-like planet in the 'habitable zone,'" said Michel Mayor, an astrophysicist at Geneva University in Switzerland.

An American expert called the discovery of the tiny planet "extraordinary."

Gliese 581 e is only 1.9 times the size of Earth -- while previous planets found outside our solar system are closer to the size of massive Jupiter, which NASA says could swallow more than 1,000 Earths.



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