Astronomers have discovered the first exoplanet smaller than Earth.
The University of Central Florida has detected what could be its first planet, only two-thirds the size of Earth and located right around the corner, cosmically speaking, at a mere 33-light years away. The exoplanet candidate called UCF 1.01, is close to its star, so close it goes around the star in 1.4 days. The planet’s surface likely reaches temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The discoverers believe that it has no atmosphere, is only two-thirds the gravity of Earth and that its surface may be volcanic or molten.
What is especially remarkable about this discovery is that the scientists used the Spitzer Space Telescope to do it, detecting the planet’s transits across the star’s face, just like Kepler. Spitzer was not designed to be able to do this.