A Japanese research team of astronomers and planetary scientists has focused their efforts on investigating the atmospheric features of one super-Earth, GJ 1214 b, which is located 40 light years from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus, northwest of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. This planet is one of the well-known super-Earths discovered in 2009 in the MEarth Project, which focuses on finding habitable planets around nearby small stars. The current team’s research examined features of light scattering of GJ 1214 b’s transit around its star.
Super-Earths are emerging as a new type of exoplanet (i.e., a planet orbiting a star outside of our Solar System) with a mass and radius larger than Earth’s but less than those of ice giants in our Solar System, such as Uranus or Neptune. Whether super-Earths are more like a “large Earth” or a “small Uranus” is unknown, since scientists have yet to determine their detailed properties.