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Fifty new exoplanets discovered

September 12, 2011
"These planets will be among the best targets for future space telescopes to look for signs of life in the planet's atmosphere by looking for chemical signatures such as evidence of oxygen,"
- Francesco Pepe, from the Geneva Observatory

The bumper haul of new worlds includes 16 'super-Earths' - planets with a greater mass than our own, but below those of gas giants such as Jupiter.

One of these super-Earths orbits inside the habitable zone - the region around a star where conditions could be hospitable to life.

The planets were identified using the Harps instrument in La Silla in Chile.

The new findings are being presented at a meeting called Extreme Solar Systems in Wyoming, US, and will appear in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Lead author Dr Michel Mayor, from the University of Geneva in Switzerland, said the haul included "an exceptionally rich population of super-Earths and Neptune-type planets hosted by stars very similar to our Sun".

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