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NASA: Newly Discovered Rocky Exoplanet is Closest Ever Observed

posted: 07/31/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
HD 219134b
NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has identified the nearest rocky planet outside of our solar system, which scientists say could be a "gold mine of science data".

The exoplanet, named HD 219134b, is the closest known exoplanet that astronomers have observed crossing in front of its host star, a process known as transiting. When an exoplanet transits its star, the star's detectable light is dimmed. By observing this change in light, astronomers can better understand both the size and composition of the transiting body.

"Transiting exoplanets are worth their weight in gold because they can be extensively characterized," explains Spitzer project scientist Michael Werner. "This exoplanet will be one of the most studied for decades to come."

An observable transiting exoplanet is a relatively uncommon phenomenon -- both the exoplanet and its star must be oriented very specifically in relation to Earth.

HD 219134b most likely does not harbor life; astronomers have determined that it lies too close to its orbiting star to be hospitable.

Click here for more information from NASA

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