Light From a "Super Earth" Seen—A First

NASA telescope offers new "crack in the door" for planet hunters.

The light from Jupiter-like gas giants has been seen before. But the new finding proves that researchers can now detect the infrared glow from smaller, more Earthlike worlds.

(See "'First' Picture of Planet Orbiting Sunlike Star Confirmed.")

Dubbed 55 Cancri e, the planet lies roughly 40 light-years away in the constellation Cancer, the crab. Astronomers call it a super-Earth because even though the planet is about twice the size of Earth and about eight times as massive, it could have a rocky surface, like our home world.

However, 55 Cancri e isn't likely to be habitable.

That's because this super-Earth orbits its star closer than Mercury circles the sun. What's more, one side of the planet always faces its host star, so that

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