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'Super-Earth' planet spurs hope for billions more

Astronomers have detected a rocky "super-Earth" planet orbiting a nearby star in a region where life could possibly exist, a finding that led one of the team from UC Santa Cruz to predict there must be billions more of them in the Milky Way.

"Detecting this planet so near implies that our galaxy must be teeming with billions of potentially habitable rocky planets," said Steven Vogt, a veteran UC Santa Cruz planet hunter who is a member of the discovery team and is now completing a new telescope called the Automated Planet Finder at the Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton near San Jose.

Altogether, 755 exoplanets have been confirmed since the first one was detected in 1995, according to the Extrasolar Planet Encyclopaedia, maintained by astronomers at the Paris Observatory.


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