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32 New Exoplanets Found
Today, at an international ESO/CAUP exoplanet conference in Porto, the team who built the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, better known as HARPS, the spectrograph for ESO's 3.6-metre telescope, reports on the incredible discovery of some 32 new exoplanets, cementing HARPS's position as the world's foremost exoplanet hunter. This result also increases the number of known low-mass planets by an impressive 30%. Over the past five years HARPS has spotted more than 75 of the roughly 400 or so exoplanets now known.

"HARPS is a unique, extremely high precision instrument that is ideal for discovering alien worlds. We have now completed our initial five-year programme, which has succeeded well beyond our expectations" - Stéphane Udry, who made the announcement.

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Title: The HARPS search for southern extra-solar planets XVIII. An Earth-mass planet in the GJ 581 planetary system
Authors: M. Mayor, X. Bonfils, T. Forveille, X. Delfosse, S. Udry, J.-L. Bertaux, H. Beust, F. Bouchy, C. Lovis, F. Pepe, C. Perrier, D. Queloz, N. C. Santos
(15th June 2009)

The GJ 581 planetary system was already known to harbour three planets, including two super-Earths planets which straddle its habitable zone. We report here the detection of an additional planet -- GJ 581e -- with a minimum mass of 1.9 M_earth. With a period of 3.15 days, it is the innermost planet of the system and has a ~5% transit probability. We also correct our previous confusion of the orbital period of GJ 581d (the outermost planet) with a one-year alias, thanks to an extended time span and many more measurements. The revised period is 66.8 days, and locates the semi-major axis inside the habitable zone of the low mass star. The dynamical stability of the 4-planet system imposes an upper bound on the orbital plane inclination. The planets cannot be more massive than approximately 1.6 times their minimum mass.

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Stand by for yet another "significant discovery" in the field of exoplanets.
That's the word that will come out next week from an international gathering of exoplanet experts during a conference in Porto, Portugal.

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HARPS Discovery
Press release at 13:45 CEST, 19th, October 2009.

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