First Earth-Size Exoplanet

S&T Illustration
In early February, European astronomers broke new ground in the search for extrasolar planets. They announced the discovery of the first planet outside the solar system with a well-measured diameter that can be described as “terrestrial” in size. The planet is less than twice Earth’s diameter, and it orbits a star similar to the Sun, but just a little smaller and dimmer. Unfortunately for astrobiologists, the planet, known as CoRoT-Exo-7b, orbits its star in less than one day, meaning it’s so close that its surface is hotter than a blast furnace. It’s hard to imagine there’s any life on this planet, but it’s discovery, along with the recent launch of NASA’s Kepler mission, suggests that many more discoveries of Earth-size exoplanets will be made in the years ahead. Join S&T editor Robert Naeye as he discusses this historic discovery with Brandon Tingley of the Astrophysical Institute of the Canaries, a member of the CoRoT science team that discovered the planet.

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