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Astronomers spot smallest planet

Astronomers say they?ve found what may be the smallest and most distant planet known to be orbiting a star outside our own solar system. The discovery says that small rocky or icy planets are more common in the cosmos than Jupiter-sized gas giant planets.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 11:50 IST

Astronomers say they’ve found what may be the smallest and most distant planet known to be orbiting a star outside our own solar system.
The discovery suggests that such small rocky or icy planets may be more common in the cosmos than Jupiter-sized gas giant planets, researchers said.

It also indicates the power of a relatively new method of finding such “exoplanets.” All of the exoplanets discovered so far around distant stars are larger than Earth.

The newly found planet is about 5.5 times the mass of Earth, making it much smaller than most of the 160 previous exoplanet discoveries. It appears to be less massive than another small planet found recently, but because of uncertainties in estimating mass that isn’t known for certain, the scientists said.
The finding was reported in the journal Nature.