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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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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.
See more ScienceShots.