European astronomers have found a trio of “super-Earths” closely circling a star that astronomers once figured had nothing orbiting it. The discovery demonstrates that planets keep popping up in unexpected places around the universe. The announcement is the first time three planets close to Earth’s size were found orbiting a single star, said Swiss astronomer Didier Queloz. He was part of the Swiss-French team using the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in the desert in Chile. The mass of the smallest of the super-Earths is about four times the size of Earth. Scientists are more interested in the broader implications of the finding: The universe is teeming with far more planets than thought. Using a new tool to study more than 100 stars once thought to be devoid of planets, the Swiss-French team found that about one-third had planets that are only slightly bigger than Earth.
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