Astronomers have found evidence for a hot and steamy atmosphere on Gliese 1132B, the Earth-like planet that circles a red dwarf star in the southern sky.
Despite living on a planet as awesome as our own, astronomers are super eager to find more Earths. A similar exoplanet called Gliese 1132B is one such planet. It’s called a “Super Earth” because it’s larger than our own planet, but is thought to be made of similar stuff. And now researchers just discovered something extremely awesome that makes GJ 1132B the most Earth-like exoplanet humans have ever found: it has an atmosphere!
Yes! you read that right: there is Atmosphere on Gliese 1132B!
Finding planets in the depths of space that bear similarities to Earth is a long and complicated process. First we have to find the planet itself, then we have to determine its size. Then we take an educated guess as to what it’s made out of, and figure out how far away it sits from its star. If all of those tests, readings, and measurements come back in the right neighborhood, scientists have to determine if the world has an atmosphere, because without that there’s essentially zero chance that life is or could be supported on its surface.
A Whole World Of Possibilities:
GJ 1132b has managed to make it past all of those hurdles, but even that strict criteria doesn’t confirm the planet’s ability to host living things. The planet is thought to be quite hot, with temperatures at or above those of Venus. Venus is hundreds of degrees hotter than Earth. If life does exist on the planet, it could be dramatically different from anything humans have ever imagined, but we won’t know for certain for a long while. In the meantime, researchers are suggesting that observatories around the world give the planet some special attention going forward.
The discovery of the atmosphere on Gliese 1132B will encourage astronomers on the lookout for alien life. Small stars, like the one orbited by GJ 1132B, are extremely common. They are also known to harbor scores of small, potentially habitable, planets.
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