NASA Discovers Another ‘Super Earth’ Named HD 219134b, A Rocky Exoplanet Only 21 Light Years Away

While the world is yet to recover from the hangover of the discovery of Kepler452b, the newest earth-like exoplanet discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, we now have reports coming in of another Exoplanet discovery. The new planet, which has been named HD 219134b is a rocky planet — just like our Earth — but happens to be much closer to us than Kepler452b. However, unlike Kepler452b, which lies in the so called “habitable zone” of its star, this new planet is located too close to its star to be able to support life as we know it. Also, unlike 452b, which is over 1,400 light years away, HD 219134b is “just” 21 light years away, reports the CS Monitor.

According to NASA, HD 219134b is located in the constellation of Cassiopeia and is not visible to the naked eye. However, the star it orbits is visible to the naked eye. The planet was first discovered by the HARPS-North instrument located in the Canary Islands. Current estimates say that the planet is about 1.6 times the size of the earth but has much larger mass. It also has a very speedy orbit around its parent star. A year on this planet is just three days long. According to additional data received from the Spitzer space telescope, the planet has an estimated density of 3.5 ounces per cubic inch, which makes HD 219134b a rocky planet. In a statement issued by the lead scientist of the team that discovered the new planet, Michael Gillon of the University of Liege, Belgium explains the find.

“Thanks to NASA’s Kepler mission, we know super-Earths are ubiquitous in our galaxy, but we still know very little about them. Now we have a local specimen to study in greater detail. It can be considered a kind of Rosetta Stone for the study of super-Earths.”

While not as promising in terms of life prospects as the discovery of Kepler452b, the fact that HD 219134b is much closer to the earth than the former makes it an interesting subject for future studies.

As for the distance of HD 219134b from Earth, while 21 light years sounds very close, it is still way beyond the reach of our spacecrafts. Consider this. The speed of the New Horizons spacecraft that we sent to Mars was a mind boggling 36,373 mph — making it one of the fastest things we have ever made. Even at that speed, it would take just over 387,000 years for a one-way trip to HD 219134b. Simply put, to reach any of the so called “closest” exoplanets is a task beyond the capabilities of current human technologies.

[Image Via JPL/NASA]