A Bounty of Super Earths

Phot19a08normal_2[cross-posted from Kentucky Space] Here is an artist's impression of the latest in a haul of planets from recent observations at the European Souther Observatory.

The image depicts a system of three "super-Earths" around the star HD 40307 in the constellation Pictor.

As detection techniques improve, the ability to potentially resolve exoplanets as small as Earth is becoming more likely, and, indeed, according to European astronomers about 45 new "Earth-like" planets have been uncovered by Harps, or the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher at the observatory in Chile. The new discoveries have the mass of three or four Earths.

Astronomers now believe that roughly thirty percent of the stars in the Milky Way may harbor such super-Earths, according to a New York Times article yesterday.

Scientific American has more.

Given the wealth of data being created by terrestrial observatories like Harps, space craft such as Kepler almost undoubtedly will find planets very similar in mass to our own within habitable orbits - orbits permitting the presence of liquid water - of their parent stars.

You and I are living in the Golden Age of planetary discovery.