“Super-Earths” May Be More Earth-y After All

Super-Earths are massive terrestrial planets that are fairly common in the Milky Way. While the name implies that these extrasolar planets would be similar to Earth, the name only refers to the mass and does not imply anything about the surface conditions or habitability. However, Northwestern University astrophysicist, Nicolas B. Cowan and Dorian Abbot, a University of Chicago geophysicist, report the odds of these planets having an Earth-like climate are much greater than previously thought. The researchers new model challenges the conventional wisdom, which says super-Earths would be a waterworld, with its surface completely covered in water. They conclude that most tectonically active super-Earths, regardless of mass, store most of their water in the mantle and will have both oceans and exposed continents, enabling a stable climate such as Earth’s.

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