A Venus-like planet has been discovered in a solar system relatively close to our own in what some astronomers are describing as arguable the most important “exoplanet” found orbiting a star other than the Sun.
The rocky planet, called GJ 1132b, is slightly larger than the Earth and, like Venus, its surface is too hot to support liquid water – but scientists believe the planet will be invaluable in the search for extraterrestrial life.
At 39 light years away, GJ 1132b is the nearest rocky exoplanet yet discovered. Its relative proximity to Earth and the fact that it orbits its star once every 1.6 days means that astronomers now have an important test-bed to study the atmospheres of other far-away planets with telescopes that could detect the first chemical signatures of life beyond the Solar System – such as atmospheric methane.
Planet GJ 1132b orbits so close to its own star that its temperatures reach a scorching 232C, which although too hot for life – at least as we know it – are still cool enough for the planet to possess an atmosphere, raising hopes that scientists will be able to analyze its chemical composition from Earth to study its winds and even the colors of its sunsets.
GJ 1132b is about 16 per cent larger than the Earth and although its solar orbit is much closer than that of our own planet, its sun is a “red dwarf” star far smaller than the Sun . The planet is probably in a locked orbit, meaning that one side of its surface permanently faces its star while the other always points out to space, much like the Moon’s orbit around Earth.
“The temperature of the planet is about as hot as your oven will go, so it’s like burnt-cookie hot. It’s too hot to be habitable. There’s no way there’s liquid water on the surface, but it’s cooler than the other rocky planets that we know of,” Dr Berta-Thompson said. Source: Independent UK