GJ1214b, New Water Planet Discovered by Scientists

A new planet, GJ1214b, which is many light years outside of our solar system, has been discovered consisting almost entirely of water.

Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have made claim to the liquid planet. The exoplanet is "a waterworld enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere," the researchers said in a statement, after examining the planet with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The researchers are calling the exoplanet, GJ 1214b, which astronomers first discovered in December 2009.

"GJ 1214b is like no planet we know of," Zachory Berta, lead author from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in a statement. "A huge fraction of its mass is made up of water."

The exoplanet is located 40 light years from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus, and is quite unique, researchers said.

"We're using Hubble to measure the infrared color of sunset on this world," Berta said. "The Hubble measurements really tip the balance in favor of a steamy atmosphere."

GJ 1214b is more than two and a half times the diameter of Earth's and weighs nearly seven times as much as our planet.

Researchers stated that it orbits a red-dwarf star at a distance of 1.2 million miles. Being so close to one of the hottest objects in the solar system gives it an estimated surface temperature of 446 degrees Fahrenheit, which is far too hot to support any type of life as we know it.

"The high temperatures and high pressures would form exotic materials like 'hot ice' or 'superfluid water,' substances that are completely alien to our everyday experience," Berta said.

Because of the planet's proximity to Earth, it's a prime candidate for study by future instruments. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2018, could possibly get a better look at the planet's atmosphere, researchers said.