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Space & Astronomy

Atmosphere found around Earth-like planet

By T.K. Randall
April 7, 2017 · Comment icon 30 comments

GJ 1132b is thought to be too hot to support life. Image Credit: NASA; ESA; G. Bacon, STScI
Astronomers have detected an atmosphere around GJ 1132b - a planet situated 39 light years away.
For the first time ever, the atmosphere around an Earth-like world in orbit around a distant star has been directly detected by scientists - a breakthrough that takes us one step closer to discovering habitable extraterrestrial worlds beyond our own solar system.

The planet, which is 1.4 times the size of the Earth, is believed to have a particularly thick atmosphere consisting of water, methane or a mixture of both.

Unfortunately though in this case, given that the surface temperature of GJ 1132b is thought to be in excess of 370C, the chances of there being life on this alien world are very slim indeed.
"To my knowledge the hottest temperature that life has been able to survive on Earth is 120C and that's far cooler than this planet," said lead researcher Dr John Southworth.

Nonetheless, detecting an atmosphere around any distant planet is an important achievement.

When the James Webb Space Telescope launches next year, it should become possible to analyze the atmospheres of a whole host of previously discovered extrasolar worlds.

"What we have shown is that planets around low mass stars can have atmospheres and because there are so many of those in the Universe, it makes it that much more likely that one might have life," said Dr Southworth.

Source: BBC News | Comments (30)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #21 Posted by seeder 7 years ago
If it haves an atmosphere and is earth, then its fair to say Earth like.  It just depends on what you think 'earth-like' should mean
Comment icon #22 Posted by bison 7 years ago
It's been suggested that a close-in, tidally locked planet like this could have had any atmosphere it once possessed eroded away by stellar wind and radiation. The fact that this planet appears to still have an atmosphere may be explained by its relatively fast rotation, ~ 38 hours. That could generate a strong enough magnetic field to protect the atmosphere. This planet was found only 39 light years away. So it appears that such potentially hospitable planets may be common. This would raise the prospects for life in space, since red dwarf stars, and planets orbiting them are plentiful.... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by qxcontinuum 7 years ago
there is Titan right in our vecinity and it has an rich liike atmosphere    
Comment icon #24 Posted by Derek Willis 7 years ago
Some people seem to want "Earth-like" to mean "identical to Earth". A long time ago, our planet was not as it is today with a breathable and relatively stable atmosphere. And nor was it located in its current orbit. Yet it was still the Earth! The definition of "Earth-like" can only be general. For instance, Jupiter is a gas planet and so is not Earth-like. Being rocky and having an atmosphere are the criteria for being Earth-like. The planet we are discussing meets those criteria.
Comment icon #25 Posted by Frank Merton 7 years ago
Yea, well that makes "Earth-like" just journalistic hype not meaning anything worth special attention.  To me Earth-like means orbiting a G class solitary star at roughly one AU from it in a nearly circular orbit with a significant moon nearby, an atmosphere that contains free oxygen, active plate tectonics, and a mass of maybe ten per cent more or less than our planet.  Something orbiting an M class star just is never going to make it -- they are tidally locked.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Frank Merton 7 years ago
Comment icon #27 Posted by Derek Willis 7 years ago
How much more do you want - a chain of McDonald's?
Comment icon #28 Posted by quiXilver 7 years ago
Wow... right there in our own neighbor's backyard.   Intriguing stuff... thanks for sharing!
Comment icon #29 Posted by Frank Merton 7 years ago
Oh I'm just b****ing about journalists out to sell newspapers -- or I guess the modern equivalent is getting people to visit a given web site. I think honestly that we don't know enough about what life might be that we have any right to demand it be on an "earth like" planet, and therefore focusing our search to such objects could be a serious oversight.  However, if one is going to call something earth like, then that is what it should be, not "kinda like the earth in some ways."
Comment icon #30 Posted by DieChecker 7 years ago
Depends.... on what the solar output of the star it is orbiting is. If it is a red dwarf, the solar output, even at a thousand times closer, might even be less then we get here on Earth. So, depending on the star, this planet might be scorching hot, mild and Earth like, or even frozen over world like Europa. EDIT: The artist recreations in the article seem to indicate that the star is a red dwarf. EDIT: Found the Wiki article. Says the planet gets 19 time the radiation, and is around 240 C. So probably no life there, as we know it. https://en.wikipedi... [More]

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