Artist’s impression of the Gliese 667C system

State of Super-Earths

Our solar system hosts a cornucopia of worlds, from the hellfire of Venus to the frozen plains of Mars to the mighty winds of Uranus. In that range, the Earth stands alone, with no planet coming close to its life-friendly position near the Sun. Outside our solar system, however, it’s a different story. Observations have indicated that a new class of objects dubbed super-Earths – worlds that are about two to 10 times our planet’s mass and up to two times its radius – could be among the most common type of planets orbiting other stars. Nader Haghighipour, a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the University of Hawaii-Manoa’s Institute for Astronomy, describes how these worlds form, whether they are habitable, and how they arrived in their current orbits. In a paper in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences and an interview with the Astrobiology Magazine, Haghighipour reviews the latest discoveries for insight into how these planets form and whether such worlds could be habitable.

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