A huge discovery struck the astronomical world. Researchers found, for the first time, an exoplanet which resembled Earth and which had some sort of atmosphere. Gliese 1132b (GJ 1132b) is the exoplanet in question.
The first Earth-like planet with an atmosphere
GJ 1132b was discovered in the Vela constellation, 39 light-years away from Earth. This exoplanet has almost the same size and mass as Earth, and it is the first planet which resembles it so much and also has an atmosphere. This discovery is of massive importance in the quest for alien life.
John Southwork, the lead researcher from Keele University, UK, said that this was the first time when they attempted the study of the atmosphere of smaller exoplanets which bore a few resemblances to Earth. However, GJ 1132b still has several differences.
This planet is hotter than Earth, and it also is a bit bigger. Therefore, it might be a water world, and its atmosphere might be made up of hot steam. This atmosphere, however, is around 1.6 times bigger than the atmosphere of Earth. Also, the radius of GJ 1132b is 1.4 times bigger than Earth’s.
Does the planet really host life?
However, researchers cannot say what other similarities they have or if this planet is habitable. For instance, the temperature on the surface of the planet reaches 698 degrees Fahrenheit, which might make it a little bit difficult for life to thrive.
Researchers discovered this planet while studying Gliese 1132, the red dwarf which the planet orbited. They spotted it with the help of the ESO/MPG telescope in Chile. From all the planets in this star system, GJ 1132b performed a complete orbit around the star in 1.6 Earth days. This helped them find out more about the composition and mass of the planet.
Under an infrared analysis, the exoplanet looked bigger and its atmosphere seemed dense and opaque. After changing more wavelengths of light for the analysis, they discovered that the atmosphere was actually quite rich in methane and water.
Also, the star around which the planet orbits might not allow life sustainability. It is a red dwarf star, quite typical in the universe, which also hosts planets similar to Earth. However, such stars might send powerful solar flares which affect the atmosphere of the planets.
This atmosphere, however, seems capable of receiving strong solar flares and not evaporate. Therefore, there could be thousands of other planets which orbit small stars and have the same types of atmosphere.
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