Dec 20, 2015

Super-Earth In Outer Solar System Is Incredibly Unlikely

Posted by in category: space

How an innocent plea for collegial comments turned into a global news flap about a possible Super-Earth on our solar system’s outer fringes.

The odds that our solar system harbors a super-Earth on its outer fringes are longer than the chances of winning a state lottery (or at least 200 million to one), says a University of Hawaii planetary scientist. In fact, the recent news flap over the potential detection of a rocky planet in a very long solar orbit was greatly exaggerated, the lead author of the scientific paper which resulted in the controversy now says.

“We never claim a super-Earth; we state it can’t necessarily be ruled out on the basis of our data alone, but the much more likely explanation is a much more nearby icy-body,” Wouter Vlemmings, a radio and submillimeter astronomer at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology, told me.

But Jonathan Williams, a longtime submillimeter astronomer and planetary scientist at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, who was not involved in the observations, couldn’t disagree more, particularly since super-Earths are thought to have masses that range from between 1 to 10 times that of Earth.

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