Super-Earth Planets May Have Watery Earthlike Climates

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WASHINGTON — The alien worlds known as “super-Earths” may be more like our own planet than previously thought, a new study suggests.

Super-Earths — exoplanets slightly larger than Earth — are common throughout the Milky Way galaxy, but because of their massive gravity, scientists have assumed they should be water worlds. According to a new model, however, tectonically active super-Earths likely store most of their water in the mantle, leaving exposed continents and oceans that could create a stable climate such as that of Earth.

“The temperate climate on Earth is not just because of liquid water, but because of exposed continents,” study researcher Nicolas Cowan of Northwestern University said here Tuesday (Jan. 7) at the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society. The surface temperatures of continents act as a kind of geological thermostat, stabilizing the climate. [The Strangest Alien Planets (Gallery)] Read more…

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