New Worlds on the Horizon: Earth-Sized Planets Close to Other Stars

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Science  12 Oct 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5848, pp. 210-213
DOI: 10.1126/science.1144358

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The search for habitable planets like Earth around other stars fulfills an ancient imperative to understand our origins and place in the cosmos. The past decade has seen the discovery of hundreds of planets, but nearly all are gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn. Recent advances in instrumentation and new missions are extending searches to planets the size of Earth but closer to their host stars. There are several possible ways such planets could form, and future observations will soon test those theories. Many of these planets we discover may be quite unlike Earth in their surface temperature and composition, but their study will nonetheless inform us about the process of planet formation and the frequency of Earth-like planets around other stars.

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