The View From Down Here: NASA's Spitzer Sees the Light of Alien 'Super-Earth'

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(editor's note: Ooooh - this headline got me all tingly, "NASA's Spitzer Sees the Light of Alien 'Super-Earth'."  The planet known as 55 Cancri e is a class of planets called super Earths and they keep scientists excited about developing better spacecraft and advancing current knowledge of our atmospheric neighbors.

I'm so happy to report that news of activities happening outside and around our planet continue to intrigue more and more people!
Just a few years ago, "space geeks" were the only ones interested in all the wonderous events of our neighboring planets, stars, and galaxies. Now it seems everyone has their eyes to the skies!
The view from down here is a special vantage point, so I hope you enjoy this report and get a better understanding of how important YOU are to the beautiful Cosmos we all call home.  
~All my Love, Boo)

 

NASA's Spitzer Sees the Light of Alien 'Super-Earth'

 

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has detected light emanating from a "super-Earth" planet beyond our solar system for the first time. While the planet is not habitable, the detection is a historic step toward the eventual search for signs of life on other planets.

 

Previously, Spitzer and other telescopes were able to study the planet by analyzing how the light from 55 Cancri changed as the planet passed in front of the star. In the new study, Spitzer measured how much infrared light comes from the planet itself. The results reveal the planet is likely dark, and its sun-facing side is more than 2,000 Kelvin (3,140 degrees Fahrenheit), hot enough to melt metal.

 

The new information is consistent with a prior theory that 55 Cancri e is a water world: a rocky core surrounded by a layer of water in a "supercritical" state where it is both liquid and gas, and topped by a blanket of steam.

 

The 55 Cancri system is relatively close to Earth, at 41 light-years away. It has five planets, with 55 Cancri e the closest to the star and tidally locked, so one side always faces the star. Spitzer discovered the sun-facing side is extremely hot, indicating the planet probably does not have a substantial atmosphere to carry the sun's heat to the unlit side.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2018, likely will be able to learn even more about the planet's composition. The telescope might be able to use a similar infrared method to Spitzer to search other potentially habitable planets for signs of molecules possibly related to life.

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120508174416.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29

 

 

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