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Astronomers find a New Earth?

A new Earth like planet has been discovered by astronomers, which they say represents a breakthrough in search for extraterrestrial life.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 19:38 IST
Vijay Dutt

A new most Earth-like planet has been discovered by astronomers, which they say represents a breakthrough in the search for extraterrestrial life. It is one planet where life might exist. But to find that out there is the problem of the planet being 120,000 trillion miles away.

The discovery, made using a method called gravitational microlensing first used by Einstein in 1912, has been revealed in the journal Nature. It has been found through a project that involved 73 scientists from 12 countries.

Prof Keith Horne, a member of the team from St Andrews, said the new planet confirmed that with microlensing one could find out small cool planets down to the mass of the earth. If number of such planets, with lower masses, are discovered the net step would be to determine if habitable planets like Earth are rare or in abundance.

It has been given the name of OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb. It is estimated to be near the centre of our Milky Way galaxy 20,000 light years away--- a light year is the distance light travels in one year, about six trillion miles. If the fastest rocket were to travel to the newly found planet at nearly 20,000 mph it would take 671 million years to get there. So as one joked any exchange would be possible only if the inhabitants on the other planet have faster means to hurtle through the space and come to Earth.

Astronomers say that the planets atmosphere and mass are more similar to our world than any previously discovered. And since it was found using a new planet-spotting technique, it has raised hopes of finding other worlds able to sustain life.

Astronomers feel that the planet takes 10 years to orbit its parent star, a red dwarf five times smaller than our sun. It has, possibly, a thin atmosphere, like earth, although its rocky surface is likely to be buried under frozen oceans. The astronomers also believe that the planet is too cold to support life as we know it. It has a surface temperature of about minus 220 C. But they say that the new exoplanet-- the name given to a planet which orbits a star other than Sun-- is significantly like Earth than any found so far.