In a development that has astronomers giddy with excitement, a new study published in Astronomical Journal has confirmed the existence of the first “Earth-like” planet with an atmosphere. The planet, known only as GJ 1132b, is about the size of Earth, with the same small, rocky composition as our own.
Unlike our solar system, GJ 1132b orbits a dim red dwarf star so close to its sun that its atmosphere is likely more like Venus than Earth. Not only is the average temperature of the planet likely about 700 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s also probably tidally locked – which means that gravity causes one side of the planet to constantly face its star, while the other side is in a state of permanent night.
The exoplanet was first discovered in 2015, but the existence of an atmosphere wasn’t certain until very recently. It’s unclear exactly what the planet’s atmosphere is made of, although it’s likely to be rich in either water vapor or methane. Further observations will have to be done to clarify.
Though the exoplanet is clearly unsuitable for human life, the discovery has some far-reaching implications. Exoplanets orbiting red dwarves appear to be incredibly common throughout the known universe, so there could potentially be a huge number of planets with atmospheres that might harbor life.
Via the Washington Post