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An atmosphere has been detected around a planet that astronomers have said is Earth-like, with the name of Gliese 1132b. The planet is said to be in the Vela constellation, 39 light years away. This makes the planet hugely promising for those looking for extra-terrestrial life.
Gliese 1132b is the first time a planet has been found to have an atmosphere with a radius and mass that is very similar to that of Earth. Astronomers pointed out that they hadn’t detected signs of life on the planet, but that it was an important step in the direction as it is the first time that such a planet has been located with an atmosphere, which makes it the first time an Earth-like planet has been detected.
Planet May Be A Water World With Atmosphere Of Hot Steam
While astronomers say that they still have a lot to learn about the planet, early findings seem to suggest that the planet may be a water world that has an atmosphere of hot steam. This would, in fact, be a great place to search for extra-terrestrial life.
The planet has a mass that is around 1.6 times the mass of Earth, while the radius is 1.4; these findings make GJ 1132b very similar to earth. Astronomers pointed out that at the moment observations haven’t given them much insight into just how much alike the planet might be to Earth, or whether it is habitable.
Surface Temperature Suggests No Life-Like Humans Could Exist
Scientists have suggested that the surface temperature of GJ 1132B is around 370 Celsius and this would make it very unlikely to be home to life like humans. In the past Trappist-1 and Proxima b were both thought to be places where life may be found and they turned out not to be so friendly for hosting life.
However, none of the planets discovered have had an atmosphere, so this alone makes GJ 1132b stand out above other planets discovered so far as possibilities for hosting extra-terrestrial life. The next step for astronomers is to determine the chemical composition of the atmosphere of the planet. This would give a huge hint of whether or not there were living organisms. In the case of Earth, the huge amount of oxygen gives it away.
Atmosphere Around The Planet Is A Huge Step Forward
While it is going to be a long time before scientists and astronomers gain insight into the planet, just the mere fact that atmosphere has been detected is a huge step forward. The planet orbits the red dwarf star Gliese 1131 and this was studied with the ESO/MPG telescope. A slight dip in brightness over 7 wavelengths of light when GJ1132B passed over the front of the host star every 1.6 days was measured and this gave scientists a better understanding of how big the planet was and the composition of it.
Different possible versions of the atmosphere found around the planet were modelled by scientists and they discovered an atmosphere that is rich in methane and water may explain what they have seen. Before this, the only exoplanets to be found with atmospheres around them had been 8 times bigger than Earth along with having gas giants similar to those of Jupiter.
This new discovery leads scientists and astronomers to believe that the atmosphere may be possible of enduring bombardment of huge solar flares for billions of years and not be destroyed. This leads scientists to believe that thousands of planets that are orbiting low-mass stars may have atmospheres. A large number of low-mass stars along with planets may mean that the conditions are suitable for hosting life in the universe.
While scientists and astronomers have still got a lot to learn about GJ1132B, it may not be too long before we do get some answers. The new planet and its atmosphere are high priority targets that will be studied using the James Webb Space telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope.