Hubble Confirms 'Super Earth', a Nearby Waterworld

The Hubble Space Telescope has confirmed that a distant planet discovered in 2009 is largely composed of water. Its physical attributes could mean an exotic mix of elements are present.

What's the Latest Development?

The Hubble Space Telescope has confirmed that a planet outside our solar system is composed mostly of water. Larger than Earth but smaller than gas giants like Jupiter, the exoplanet GJ 1214b, just 40 light-years away, is a so-called 'Super Earth'. The planet was discovered in 2009 by ground-based telescopes. GJ 1214b orbits a red-dwarf star at such a close distance that scientists estimate temperatures on the planet to be about 200C. "GJ 1214b is like no planet we know of," said Zachory Berta, from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  

What's the Big Idea?

When 'Super Earth' passed in front of its star, scientists were given clues about the planet's consistency as light filtered through the planet's atmosphere. Calculations suggest that GJ 1214b has more water than Earth, meaning its internal structure could be very different from Earth's. "The high temperatures and pressures would form exotic materials like 'hot ice' or 'superfluid water', substances that are completely alien to our everyday experience," said Dr Berta. The planet's proximity makes it a good candidate for the James Webb Telescope to study.

Photo credit:

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Reigning in brutality - how one man's outrage led to the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions

The history of the Geneva Conventions tells us how the international community draws the line on brutality.

Napoleon III at the Battle of Solferino. Painting by Adolphe Yvon. 1861.
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Henry Dunant's work led to the Red Cross and conventions on treating prisoners humanely.
  • Four Geneva Conventions defined the rules for prisoners of war, torture, naval and medical personnel and more.
  • Amendments to the agreements reflect the modern world but have not been ratified by all countries.
Keep reading Show less

The most culturally chauvinist people in Europe? Greeks, new research suggests

Meanwhile, Spaniards are the least likely to say their culture is superior to others.

Image: Pew Research Center
Strange Maps
  • Survey by Pew Research Center shows great variation in chauvinism across Europe.
  • Eight most chauvinist countries are in the east, and include Russia.
  • British much more likely than French (and slightly more likely than Germans) to say their culture is "superior" to others.
Keep reading Show less
Photo credit: Ian Waldie / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The coalition argues that government agencies might abuse facial recognition technology.
  • Google and Microsoft have expressed concern about the potential problems of facial recognition technology.
  • Meanwhile, Amazon has been actively marketing the technology to law enforcement agencies in the U.S.
Keep reading Show less