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An artist's impression of HD 85512 b. (European Southern Observatory)

Newly Discovered Planet: Hot, Muggy And (Maybe) Liveable

Sep 12, 2011

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Reported by

Mark Memmott

Sort of like Washington, D.C., in the summer:

"It would feel like a steam bath — hot, sticky and beyond uncomfortable."

That's how The Associated Press describes the way scientists are describing "HD 85512 b ... a newly discovered planet about 35 light-years from Earth in the constellation Vela."

It's the second planet outside our solar system that seems to be orbiting in "the habitable zone" around its star, according to the European Southern Observatory, which today announced the discovery of HD 85512 b and more than 50 other plants around other stars. In that habitable zone, "water may be present in liquid form if conditions are right," the ESC adds.

One issue, though, if you don't like steamy weather: "Temperatures there may range from 85 to 120 degrees with plenty of humidity," the AP adds.

The news of HD 85512 b's discovery has been filtering out for a couple weeks. National Geographic wrote about it late last month and offered this cautionary note for all those hoping the planet has or had life:

"Manfred Cuntz, director of the astronomy program at the University of Texas, Arlington, noted that more information is needed before anyone can speculate whether aliens are wandering around the newfound planet.

" 'It's not their fault no extra information [about the planet's atmosphere] is available right now,' Cuntz said of the research team. 'It looks like this is a strong candidate, in principle.' "

Here's a video report from the ESO.

(H/T NPR's Rob Schaefer)

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