FlashBack TSU Astronomer Finds New Planet

New planet could hold link to life in space

Updated 11/7/2007 12:04 AM

Let this be a warning to you, planets: Greg Henry is coming for you.

You cannot hide behind your pretty stars. With his robotic telescopes and seemingly endless supply of graphs and charts, Henry will find you.

And now the Tennessee State University astronomer has helped find a fifth planet in a solar system not so far away, one that could hold the answer to the question: Is anyone else out there?

“It’s in a kind of a magical position, in that it’s the right distance away from its star that liquid water could exist at that distance,” Henry said.

On Wednesday the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will officially announce the discovery of the planet, which rotates around a star in the Cancer constellation. The planet is the fifth to be found in the star’s system, the most complex outside our own solar system ever discovered.

More important is the planet’s location within the system’s “habitable zone,” meaning the planet could contain liquid water — and therefore harbor some form of life.

“It’s kind of like Goldilocks: It’s not a planet that’s too hot, like Mercury … and it’s not too cold like Mars,” said TSU astrobiologist Todd Gary, who wants to find out if the planet contains not only water, but oxygen.

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