Another Earth found, just 39 light years away from us


A planet just like our planet earth has been found by scientists that resides just 39 light years away from us.
The “super-Earth” planet known as GJ 1132b which is towards the constellation Vela appears to have an atmosphere.
GJ 1132b was first detected in 2015, astronomers at the time reported the planet was Earth-like, at least in a broad sense. It’s about the same size, and has a similar mass. However, it’s orbiting close to a red dwarf star-a year for GJ 1132b is only 1.6 Earth days. It may not be hospitable to human life, but many other organisms may find it cozy to live in.

By measuring the slight drop in the star’s brightness, astronomers were able to work out that the planet was 1.4 times the size of Earth. They also found that in one light wavelength band, the planet looked slightly bigger. This could be explained by an atmosphere that was opaque to some light wavelengths, but transparent to others. Dr John Southworth, from the University of Keele, who led the team, said: “While this is not the detection of life on another planet, it’s an important step in the right direction.” “The detection of an atmosphere around the super-Earth GJ 1132b marks the first time that an atmosphere has been detected around an Earth-like planet other than Earth itself.” “With this research, we have taken the first tentative step into studying the atmospheres of smaller, Earth-like planets. We simulated a range of possible atmospheres for this planet, finding that those rich in water and/or methane would explain the observations of GJ 1132b. “The planet is significantly hotter and a bit larger than Earth, so one possibility is that it is a ‘water world’ with an atmosphere of hot steam.” Analysing the chemical composition of exoplanet atmospheres could in future yield tell-tale signs of life.

Ozone, derived from oxygen released by plants, is one atmospheric life marker. Methane is another, although it can also be generated by volcanic activity. Red dwarfs like the one GJ 1132b orbits are the most abundant type of star in the universe, and exoplanet surveys suggest that terrestrial planets around them are also common. If one of them has an atmosphere, then chances are there we could find planets that have more things could support life.

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