02/10/2013 10:23 BST | Updated 02/12/2013 10:12 GMT

Strange 'Super Earth' Gliese 1214b Might Have An Atmosphere Of Plasma Water

A so-called 'Super-Earth' planet has been discovered far from our Solar System which has an atmosphere made of 'plasma' water.

The strange world of Gliese 1214b, which is located about 40 light-years from us in the constellation Ophiuchus, was first discovered in 2009 and is the subject of a new study by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).

It is described as a 'super-Earth', because it lies inside the zone where life could potentially exist, in some form. And now we know the world has clouds, water, and probably a very spectacular sunrise.

But as puts it, this planet is "no Earth twin". And our ancestors probably won't go there for their holidays.

For one thing it's six times heavier than our planet, though only three times as wide. And the temperatures on its surface, and its density, mean the conditions there are horrendously different from those on Earth (currently).

The planet's atmosphere is even weirder. The high temperature means that while the planet is probably water-rich, the chemistry of the water is completely different. Deep within the planet - which does not have a solid surface - there could be "ionic or plasma water", while water vapour could exist higher up.

Astronomers from the NAOJ told that they still know very little about the world, since they're relying mainly on limited data from light gathered when the planet passed in front of its host star. They doubt that the world could host life - as we know it - but will continue to study the system in the hopes that it might still have some secrets to share.