Most of the more than 700 exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) that have been found to date have been huge, many much larger than Jupiter, this new world, dubbed UCF-1.01, is a great find. It represents how far astronomy has come in the last few years.
“People have been picking at the low-hanging fruit, since Jupiter-sized planets are easier to see,” said Kevin Stevenson, the a researcher at the University of Central Florida who led the team that found the planet, in an ABC News interview. “Now we’re really pushing the limits of what our telescopes can find.”
UCF-1.01 is only about 1.5 percent as far away from its star, GJ 436, as Earth is from our sun, meaning that the planet would not be a great place to live. Researchers estimate temperatures on the likely molten lava surface likely exceed 1,000 degrees. UCF-1.01 orbits its red dwarf star once every 1.4 Earth days.
The astronomers were not able to see the planet directly, but calculated its mass roughly after observing a tint blib in the star’s brightness as UCF-1.01 passed by.