In what might be the biggest single haul of new exoplanets, the HARPS telescope of the European Southern Observatory, ESO, has discovered 50 new worlds, including 16 super Earths. A ′Super-Earth′ is a large, rock-based exoplanet, up to ten times the size of our Earth. In our solar system, such large planets, like Neptune and Uranus, are gas-based planets. But a Super-Earth is one which could have oceans, continents and an atmosphere, and have the potential of supporting some form of life. The closets example would be actually smaller than our Earth, as evidence of water flowing on Mars may indicate life at some point in its history. Some astronomers now predict that 1 out of 50 new exoplanets found may be a Super-Earth, capable of sustaining life. One world in particular, HD 85512 b, is about 3.5 times larger than Earth and orbits its star in an Earth-like zone where liquid water is possible.

16 super earths

The HARPS telescope is 3.6 meters wide and is located in Chile at the ESO facility at the La Silla Observatory. Led by astronomer Michel Mayor of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, HARPS has detected some 150 exoplanets using its spectrograph in the past eight years. A technique of observing stars similar to our Sun is used, then measuring their radial velocity. HARPS has surveyed about 376 Sun-like stars so far, and has found at least one exoplanet orbiting 40% of them. The sensitivity of the HARPS spectrograph can chart velocity differences as low as 4 kilometers per hour, less than a walking speed!

Of some 50 new exoplanets discovered by the HARPS – ESO telescope in Chile, 16 Super Earths were found. Astronomers believe that the Super-Earth HD 85512 b, some 35 light years away in the Vela constellation, has a high potential for sustaining life. The HARPS telescope has determined that the planet has an average mean temperature of about 77 degrees Fahrenheit, which would allow for water flowing as a liquid, as we have seen on Mars, which could indicate life. Super-Earths are a class of exoplanet that are up to ten times the size of Earth and or rock-based worlds.