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Odd-sized super-Earths abound beyond the solar system, astronomers say

Delila James | Science Recorder | January 08, 2014

Odd-sized super-Earths abound beyond the solar system, astronomers say

A new study finds mini-Neptunes may be common.

On Monday (Jan. 6), talk at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in National Harbor, Maryland, was all about those strange exoplanets known as “super-Earths” or “mini-Neptunes.” In fact, most of the exoplanets detected so far appear to be of this type: larger than Earth and smaller than Neptune. What’s odd is that this size range doesn’t exist in our own solar system.

According to astronomer Geoff Marcy of the University of California at Berkeley, about 85 percent of planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope are super-Earths. He said these planets orbit close to their parent stars and that it’s possible scientists eventually will discover smaller, rocky planets at more distant orbits, according to the Washington Post.

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