Water World Found Just Around The Corner

This is how I imagine GJ1214b, a super-Earth discovered only 40 light years away from us, orbiting a red dwarf star in the constellation of Ophiuchus. The good news: It's three parts water. The bad news: The beaches are too hot.

200 degrees Celsius, that's how hot. But still, there are signs that the planet has a gaseous atmosphere and is composed mostly of water and other ices, with one worth of it being rock. As Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics' graduate Zachory Berta puts it: "Despite its hot temperature, this appears to be a waterworld. It is much smaller, cooler and more Earthlike than any other known exoplanet."

Surprisingly enough, it was discovered by an array of common 16-inch optical telescopes using Apogee U42 CCDs, a kind of sensor which is used by amateur astronomers all over the world. The array is part of the MEarth Project, which monitors 2000 red dwarves for signs of planetary activity.

The next step would be to direct Hubble to the planet - which only orbits the star in only 38 hours - and analyse its atmosphere. After that, we will send to it a one-way spacecraft with Kevin Costner in it. [Eureka Alert]

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