Discovery of 16 super-Earths announced by European Southern Observatory

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European Southern Observatory announced the discovery of more than 50 new exoplanets, including 16 super-Earths, one of which orbits at the edge of the habitable zone of its star.

This is the largest number of such planets ever announced at one time.

“The harvest of discoveries from HARPS has exceeded all expectations and includes an exceptionally rich population of super-Earths and Neptune-type planets hosted by stars very similar to our Sun. And even better — the new results show that the pace of discovery is accelerating,” says Michel Mayor (University of Geneva, Switzerland), who led the team.

“These planets will be among the best targets for future space telescopes to look for signs of life in the planet’s atmosphere by looking for chemical signatures such as evidence of oxygen,” explains Francesco Pepe (Geneva Observatory, Switzerland).

"In the coming ten to twenty years we should have the first list of potentially habitable planets in the Sun's neighbourhood. Making such a list is essential before future experiments can search for possible spectroscopic signatures of life in the exoplanet atmospheres," concludes Michel Mayor, who discovered the first-ever exoplanet around a normal star in 1995.

Source: European Southern Observatory

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