Archive for the ‘Super-Earths’ Tag

What if Earth Had a Growth Spurt!   Leave a comment

“Super-Earth’s” are faraway planets are about the size of Earth (between 2 and 10 times larger), belong to other solar systems and reside close to their own stars. These super earths are rocky worlds, smaller than gas giants like Neptune and Uranus, and sporting relatively thin atmospheres. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, over a 4 year period discovered numerous examples of these super Earth’s.


So, what on earth would happen if Earth had a sudden growth spurt and became a super-Earth? how would our suddenly giant super-size Earth affect its inhabitants? Everything including humans would be little short, squat versions of their/our current selves! If planetary size increases but everything on the planet remains the same gravity increases proportionally. So, if Earth suddenly doubled in size humans would immediately double their weight due to the pull of gravity on us also doubling.








There would be far too much gravitational pressure for our previously tall and upstanding bodies to deal with and to do so would involve a lot more energy to resist it.

A super-sized big fat Earth would be the proud possessor of a super-strong field of gravity. Nice! But unfortunately, this would mean we would have the not-so-nice job of having to deal with a decidedly unwanted increase in the number of head-on collisions with thoroughly undesirable asteroids. Lots of them!

“As a superplanet, Earth’s greater gravitational pull would effectively attract more and larger asteroids, so “Armageddon-type” collisions would become more of a concern than they are now” – Rory Barnes, theorist studying planet habitability at the University of Washington

If our super-Earth was around 10 times bigger than its normal, perfectly reasonable size this could set-off a whole bunch of spectacular changes inside our cosy, if not rather overly large planet. The Earth has a core made of iron and boasts a liquid mantle on its outside. Due to its largely unexplained and somewhat curious upgrade to a super earth both the core and the mantle would also swell proportionally, to be 10 times their normal size – eek! Not to be out done gravity would increase 10-fold leading to a pressure increase beneath Earth’s surface. This could lead to solidifying of the iron core.

Magnetic Fields

Normal size, squidgy, little Earth has a semi-liquid core complete with convection currents and it is from here Earth’s magnetic field is generated. Magnetic fields are quite handy things to have hanging around therefore, should Earth’s friendly little core decide solidifying was a pretty cool idea we would be faced with a highly unfavourable problem. The convection currents, along with the trusty magnetic field (planetary shield) could become much weaker than they are on normal sized Earth, or worst-case scenario, could disappear altogether, which is seriously bad news for every life form that calls Earth its home. Ooh err!


Image Credit: Free stock photos – (Image contains 2 photos)




Volcanic Activity

Another question with our shiny super-sized earth with its newly enlarged interior is the potential for a dangerous upsurge in volcanic activity. The expanded core contains higher levels of energy than little normal sized Earth but now it would have fewer outflows for all this extra energy it has gained, leading to more volcanic eruptions. (Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io comes to mind at this point!)

Our plate tectonics, would be different too. A larger and therefore much hotter mantle might increase convection current activity, also increasing plate movement. Alternatively, the high pressure might meld the crust together meaning there would be no plate tectonics at all.

Steam Planet

In fact, there are no guarantees that any form of life would be able to exist on our great big super-Earth. Most super-Earths detected by the Kepler space telescope were situated at nearly the same distance to their star as Mercury lies to our sun. (Think furnaces!) In this scenario our newly super-sized Earth would turn into a giant steamy planet!


Kelper Mission Discovers Twin Earth! (Updated 28th April 2012)   31 comments


Gliese 667C – Kelper Mission Discovers Twin Earth!

Billions of potentially habitable alien planets in the Milky Way Smile

Double sunset from Gliese 667C

(Alien Landscape: Artists impression of sunset scene from the Super Earth orbiting the star Gliese 667C (GJ 667C) which is part of the triple star system. The two more distant stars Gliese 667A and Gliese 667B appear in the sky to the right of the image. Astronomers estimate there of tens of billions of small, rocky habitable worlds, in the Milky Way orbiting faint red dwarf stars within their ‘habitable zones,’ where surface water could support life, and dozens within 30 Light Years of Earth. Image Credit: L.Calgada/ESO)

“This was expected to be a rather unlikely star to host planets. Yet there they are very nearby, metal-poor examples of the most common type of star in our galaxy. The detection of this planet and so nearby, and this soon implies that our galaxy must be teeming with billions of potentially habitable rocky planets.” ~ Steven Vogt

Super-Earth Gliese 667C (GJ 667C)

GJ 667C is an M class red dwarf star in a triple star system. The alien ‘super-Earth’ is situated about 22 Light Years away where it is orbiting it’s red dwarf host star in a period of 28 days, and is about 4.5 times larger than Earth. It is temperate enough to allow liquid water to exist on its surface. It is accompanied by orange K class dwarf stars GJ 667A and B.


GJ 667C receives 90% of light received by Earth, most of which is infra-red, so a higher percentage of incoming energy is absorbed by the planet.

Well worth checking out! Though given the distance it is not likely to be in our lifetime, unless warp speed becomes a reality anytime soon!

“This planet is the best candidate to support liquid water and perhaps life as we know it…”

~ Guillem Anglada-Escude

Artists impression of Super-Earth

About 80% of the Milky Way (160 billion) stars are red dwarfs so it is likely that there are around 65 billion stars with habitable Super Earth’s in our galaxy. About 100 lie within 10 parsecs (32.6 Light Years) of Earth.

“Because red dwarfs are so common – there are about 160 million of them in the Milky Way – this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone.”~ Dr Xavier Bonfils from Grenoble University in France, who led the international team.

Star spectral classes comparison

THE STUDY – Between February 2008 and April 2009 researchers at the European Southern Observatory, La Sill Observatory in Chile, studied 102 Class M (Red Dwarf) stars situated at a distance of less than 32.6 Light Years away. New planets, new life?New planets are discovered by detecting the subtle wobbles that occur when the planets are orbiting their star. 41% of them are orbiting their stars inside the habitable zone, where they could potentially support life.

GJ 667C was discovered by Astronomers from UC Santa Cruz, Steven Vogt and Eugenio Rivera, led by Guillem Anglada-Escude and Paul Butler of Carniegie Institution for Science.

The HARPS high-precision ‘Planet Hunter’ device works with the 3.6m telescope at the Silla Observatory in Chile to bring us these results.

When the information obtained via a telescope was input into the instruments nine super-Earth planets were detected by astronomers. These included Gliese (GJ) 581 and Gliese(GJ) 667C both of which are within the habitable zones of their stars.

clip_image012However, it should also be remembered that Red dwarf stars are not as super-hot as our star – The Sun. Consequently the super-Earth planets that orbit them must Flares from alien sundo so at a considerably closer range in order to obtain the necessary heat. With their habitable zones in such close proximity to their stars compared to the distance of Earth to the Sun there is a danger that the potential for life could be inhibited by the dangerous X-ray and ultraviolet flares emitted by their stars, which could successfully frazzle any life!


After re-evaluating information collected back in February, scientists reportedly confirmed on Friday that they had indeed discovered a planet outside of our solar system that is capable of supporting life.

On Friday, the Telegraph published a report confirming the findings.

“Re-analyzing data from the European Southern Observatory, the astronomers found Gliese 667Cc is a solid planet with roughly four and a half times the mass of Earth,” they said, adding that astronomers from the University of Göttingen and the University of California “have calculated the planet receives ten per cent less light from its red dwarf star than the Earth gets from the Sun.”

“It’s the Holy Grail of exo-planet research to find a planet orbiting around a star at the right distance so it’s not too close where it would lose all its water and not too far where it would freeze,” University of California astronomer Steven Vogt said, according to the UK publication. “It’s right there in the habitable zone — there’s no question or discussion about it. It is not on the edge. It is right in there.”

(Source: redOrbit)