Home > Astronomy, Cosmology, Exoplanets, General Astronomy > Are Super-Earths Really Mini-Neptunes?

Are Super-Earths Really Mini-Neptunes?


In the last two decades astronomers have found hundreds of planets in orbit around other stars. One type of these so-called ‘exoplanets’ is the super-Earths that are thought to have a high proportion of rock but at the same time are significantly bigger than our own world. Now a new study led by Helmut Lammer of the Space Research Institute (IWF) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences suggests that these planets are actually surrounded by extended hydrogen-rich envelopes and that they are unlikely to ever become Earth-like. Rather than being super-Earths, these worlds are more like mini-Neptunes. The scientists publish their work in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

‘Super-Earths’ follow a different evolutionary track to the planets found in our Solar system but an open question is whether they can evolve to become rocky bodies like the ‘terrestrial planets’ Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. To try to answer this, Dr Lammer and his team looked at the impact of radiation on the upper atmospheres of super-Earths orbiting the stars Kepler-11, Gliese 1214 and 55 Cancri.

Full Story: http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/224-news-2013/2217-are-super-earths-really-mini-neptunes

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