Corot-7b, which circles its sun in 20 hours, too hot to harbor life...
An artist's impression released by European Southern Observatory yesterday shows the smallest and fastest-orbiting exoplanet known, Corot-7b (foreground), around a star named Corot-7, located towards the constellation of Monoceros (the Unicorn) at a distance of about 500 light-years.
Astronomers have finally found a place outside our solar system where there's a firm place to stand - if only it weren't so broiling hot.
As scientists search the skies for life elsewhere, they have found more than 300 planets outside our solar system. But they all have been gas balls or can't be proven to be solid. Now, a team of European astronomers has confirmed the first rocky extrasolar planet.
Scientists have long figured that if life begins on a planet, it needs a solid surface to rest on, so finding one elsewhere is a big deal.
"We basically live on a rock ourselves," said co-discoverer Artie Hartzes, director of the Thuringer observatory in Germany. "It's as close to something like the Earth that we've found so far. It's just a little too close to its sun."
So close that its surface temperature is between 1,000 and 1,500 degree Celsius, too toasty to sustain life. It circles its star in just 20 hours, zipping around at 749,954 kph. By comparison, Mercury, the planet nearest our sun, completes its solar orbit in 88 days.