New Planet Found


In a surprise find, astronomers have discovered a planet possibly covered with oceans of magma “right around the corner.”

Even more exciting to scientists is its size: about the same as Mars‘s, which would make the new world the closest known planet smaller than Earth.

Researchers using NASA‘s Spitzer Space Telescope essentially stumbled upon the new planet while studying a hot, Neptune-size planet called GJ 436b.

In their data, however, the team caught a faint signal of the new planet and named it UCF-1.01, after their institution, the University of Central Florida. Both worlds were detected by watching for regular dimming of their host star, indicating a planet transiting, or crossing in front of, the star.

“We have a sub-Earth-sized planet that’s slightly larger than Mars and essentially right around the corner, at least on a cosmic scale,” said Kevin Stevenson, a planetary scientist now at the University of Chicago, who led the study that revealed UCF-1.01.

“It’s one of the nearest transiting planets, it’s tiny, and it may not be alone.”

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