Wednesday, June 04, 2008

'Tiniest Extrasolar Planet' Isn't, But It's Still Pretty Cool

So the BBC is running the headline, "Tiniest extrasolar planet found." Then the lead reads, "smallest extrasolar planet yet orbiting a normal star." And then in the article we learn, "a smaller planet than this one has been found orbiting a pulsar." I get how the BBC is trying as hard as the next website to earn clicks, but come on. They could be making some science fans look like idiots in front of their slightly smarter science friends at the water cooler.

Anyhow, the latest "tiniest" planet is about 3.3-times the size of Earth and (probably) orbits a brown dwarf (it may be a very low-mass red dwarf). Brown dwarfs are pretty much the weakest stars out there (they're just one step above a gas-giant like Jupiter), so there's little chance this new planet supports life, liquid water or the pursuit of happiness. However, scientists speculate the atmosphere could be thick enough to harness the planet's internal heat and cause a greenhouse effect (think Venus) capable of keeping temps in the "Houston, we have an ocean" range.

The new planet is called "MOA-2007-BLG-192Lb," and was discovered at the Mount John Observatory in New Zealand.

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2017.3.28

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.