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10 April 2014 11:44 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
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ScienceShot: Water World Is New Type of Planet
21 February 2012 12:40 pm
Talk about a sauna. Data gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope suggest that a planet tightly circling a star 40 light-years from Earth is a water world swaddled in a thick, steamy atmosphere. Previous observations of GJ1214b (artist's concept shown), which was first discovered in 2009 and has an estimated surface temperature of about 230°C, couldn't eliminate the possibility that the planet's atmosphere was simply hazy rather than steamy. But the new observations, detailed online in The Astrophysical Journal, reveal that the atmosphere transmits light consistently across a broad range of wavelengths—which tips the balance strongly toward an atmosphere mostly composed of water vapor, the researchers say, because a hazy atmosphere would be more transparent to infrared light than to visible wavelengths. While our solar system contains rocky worlds such as Venus and Earth, gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn, and icy orbs such as Pluto—and other solar systems sport "lava worlds" and "hot Jupiters"—GJ1214b is the first planet discovered to be composed largely of water rather than rock. Scientists estimate that GJ1214b is about 2.7 times Earth's diameter and weighs about seven times as much, giving the planet a density of about 2 grams per cubic centimeter compared with water's density of 1 gram per cubic centimeter and Earth's average density of 5.5 grams per cubic centimeter.
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