Thursday, January 26, 2006

Smallest extra solar planet revealed by microlensing

Astronomers have found an extra solar planet that may be just 5.5 times as massive as the Earth - that would make it the smallest exoplanet ever detected around a normal star.

It orbits a common red dwarf star, 22,000 light years from the Sun and was found using a technique called gravitational microlensing.

The planet is too far from its host star - and therefore too cold - to harbour life as we know it, but the new find offers hope that there are smaller, warmer worlds out there waiting to be found.

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