Will it have naked maidens? Bug-Eyed Monsters? Or is its atmosphere as forbidding as Venus?
Researchers have detected an atmosphere around a near-Earth-size planet, GJ 1132b, located 39 light-years away, depicted here in an artist’s impression. Credit: MPIA
Discovery! Atmosphere Spotted on
Nearly Earth-Size Exoplanet in First
For the first time, scientists have detected an atmosphere around a planet beyond our solar system that’s just a little bit larger than Earth.
The exoplanet GJ 1132b, which orbits the dwarf star GJ 1132, is located about 39 light-years away from Earth. It has a radius about 1.4 times that of Earth and is 1.6 times Earth’s mass, according to the new study. When the planet was first discovered, researchers called it a potential Venus twin because it’s a rocky world with a very high surface temperature — and now, they’ve found that the planet and Venus might have a thick atmosphere in common, too (although it would have a different composition).
While observers have pinpointed atmospheres around much larger, Jupiter-like gas giants orbiting other stars — and a larger super-Earth, about eight times Earth’s mass — this is the first evidence of an atmosphere around an exoplanet that’s near Earth’s size, the study’s researchers said. Researchers can use planets’ atmospheres to try and determine if these worlds are suitable for life as we know it on Earth, or even to identify potential traces of life recorded there.