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Astronomers find watery exoplanet
Posted: Wed, Feb 22, 2012, 7:44 AM ET (1244 GMT)
GJ 1214b waterworld illus. (STScI) Astronomers aalyzing Hubble observations have concluded one known extrasolar planet has a thick atmosphere of water vapor and likely far more water than the Earth. Astronomers discovered the planet, GJ1214b, in 2009, and observations a year later suggested that it has either at atmosphere of water vapor or a haze layer. Follow-up infrared observations by Hubble as the planet transited its star confirmed the presence of water vapor in the atmosphere, based on the lack of features observed over a range of infrared wavelengths. The planet is a so-called "super Earth" with a diameter 2.7 times that of the Earth and seven times as massive. The resulting density suggests the planet has a larger fraction of water than the Earth.
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