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Fifty New Planets Found—Largest Haul Yet
09.12.2011
Artwork: A newfound super-Earth orbits its sunlike star in an artist's conception.

See full article at National Geographic website.

See also ESO News Release.

Excerpt: Fifty new alien worlds, including 16 "super Earths," have been found—the largest extrasolar planet haul announced at one time, astronomers say. The discoveries bring the total number of known extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, to 645.
"The harvest of discoveries ... has exceeded all expectations, and includes an exceptionally rich population of super-Earths and Neptune-type planets hosted by stars very similar to our sun," study leader Michel Mayor, an astronomer at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, said in a statement.
...MIT astronomer Sara Seager said that the new batch of planets orbits relatively bright stars, which could allow for followup observations using other planet-seeking methods that might glean more information than the radial velocity technique.
"It's great to have entered the era that discovering super-Earths is routine," added Seager, who was not involved in the HARPS research."
Golden Age" of Exoplanet Discovery
Alan Gould, an astronomy educator at the University of California, Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science, called the discoveries "pretty exciting."
"This big batch of planets contributes to our overall knowledge of what extrasolar planet systems are like—how common Jupiter-type giant planets are relative to Neptune-types and super Earths, and whether they're close in or far out from their host stars," said Gould, also a member of NASA's Kepler exoplanet-finding mission.
"These kinds of statistics can help us figure out what star-planet systems are like in general, and that has implications for whether there are Earthlike planets or not.
"This is looking more and more like a golden age of exoplanet discovery."
The 50 new planets were announced at the Extreme Solar Systems II meeting, held this week in Moran, Wyoming.

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