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Astronomers find first rocky planet outside solar system

The first-ever map of the surface of an exoplanet, or a planet beyond our solar system. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech//Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

Washington (BNS): Astronomers have discovered an Earth-like planet made from solid rocky material outside the Solar System.

Scientists from the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, who made the discovery said, this is an important step forward in answering the question of whether humans are alone in the universe, according to German news agency DPA.

The planet, known as COROT-7b, was discovered in February this year by the European space telescope COROT. It was detected circling a star now known as COROT-7, towards the constellation of Monoceros, the Unicorn.

The discovery is the first of the more than 300 known exoplanets - as planets outside the solar system are known - that is not large and gaseous.

The planet has a density similar to Earth. Although the small exoplanet resembles Earth in many ways, it is far too hot to support life, astronomers said.

It's so close to its sun that surface temperatures could reach 2,000 degrees Celsius in the day and minus 200 degrees at night, said lead scientist Didier Queloz of Switzerland.

"In fact, CoRoT-7b is so close that the place may well look like Dante's Inferno," he said.

"Theoretical models suggest that the planet may have lava or boiling oceans on its surface. With such extreme conditions, this planet is definitively not a place for life to develop," he added.

The exoplanet's discovery was announced in February, but scientists required further examination before announcing with confidence details of its environment.

It is the smallest exoplanet detected so far, the report said.


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