An abundance of medium-sized worlds is challenging planet-formation modelsQuicklink submitted by Kyle McDermott Permalink
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|But what has puzzled observers and theorists so far is the high proportion of planets -- roughly one-third to one-half -- that are bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. These 'super-Earths' are emerging as a new category of planet -- and they could be the most numerous of all (see 'Super-Earths rising'). Their very existence upsets conventional models of planetary formation and, furthermore, most of them are in tight orbits around their host star, precisely where the modellers say they shouldn't be... But that scenario may not explain smaller and denser super-Earths. Several such planets have already been detected, and Kepler is starting to reach the sensitivity required to spot them, says Greg Laughlin, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. 'Kepler is just seeing the tip of the iceberg.'|
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