Watery Super-Earth Found With Hubble TelescopeBy: Shawn Hess - February 21, 2012
NASA has supplied these images of what they are calling GJ 1214b. Others have adopted the name “water world” to describe the watery planet. Discovered in 2009, it was one of the first planets identified that actually has an atmosphere. A subsequent 2010 inspection of the planet suggested that the atmosphere contained a great deal of water. In other words, the air looked to be quite humid. Most recently, Scientists have confirmed that this is a completely new class of planet altogether where water makes up almost the entire mass of the planet.
GJ 1214b is more than two and a half times the size of Earth and it is very hot! Scientists estimate the temperature to average about 230 degrees celsius. This combination of water and heat suggests that the planet would have a dramatically different core than that of Earth’s.
Zachary Berta of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) comments on the unique structure of the planet:
“The high temperatures and high pressures would form exotic materials like ‘hot ice’ or ‘superfluid water’, substances that are completely alien to our everyday experience,”
Discovery News reports that scientist theorize GJ 1214b formed far away from its orbiting star where water ice was plentiful. Over many years the planet got closer and closer to the star and likely experienced a period of “habitability” where human existence may have been possible for an undefined period.
I will keep readers up to date on the discovery of Waterworld and any new information that develops regarding the planet.