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Worlds without end: Astronomers have confirmed the existence of a rocky Earthlike exoplanet only 21 light years away.
HD 219134b is also the closest exoplanet to Earth to be detected transiting, or crossing in front of, its star and, therefore, perfect for extensive research. “Transiting exoplanets are worth their weight in gold because they can be extensively characterized,” said Michael Werner, the project scientist for the Spitzer mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “This exoplanet will be one of the most studied for decades to come.”
The planet has a mass 4.5 times that of Earth, and orbits its sun every three days, which means it is not likely to harbor life. Its sun also harbors three other small exoplanets, but little is known of them.
Expect a lot more news coming from HD 219134b, however. With transits every three days, astronomers are going to have a lot of opportunities to study its atmosphere and make-up.