Atmosphere found around Earth like Exoplanet GJ 1132 b – The Astronomical Journal
A research article published on 31st of March 2017, claims that they have found an Earth-like exoplanet bearing atmosphere. The article titled “Detection of the Atmosphere of the 1.6 M ⊕ Exoplanet GJ 1132 b” by John Southworth, Luigi Mancini, Nikku Madhusudhan, Paul Mollière, Simona Ciceri, and Thomas Henning published in The Astronomical Journal – (Link to the Research Article)
The discovery of planet GJ 1132b was first announced in 2015. It lies in the Vela constellation in the southern hemisphere.
One possibility is that it is a ‘water world’ with an atmosphere of hot steam
While it is a similar size to Earth, the star it orbits is much smaller, cooler and dimmer than our Sun.
Using a telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, the researchers were able to study the planet by watching how it blocked some of the light of its host star as it passed in front of it.
“It makes the star look a little bit fainter – and it’s actually a very good way of finding transiting planets – it’s how this one was found,” said Dr Southworth.
But different molecules in a planet’s atmosphere – if it has one – absorb light in different ways, allowing scientists to look for their chemical signatures when the world transits its star.
The observations of planet GJ 1132b suggest that it has a thick atmosphere containing either steam and/or methane.
“One possibility is that it is a ‘water world’ with an atmosphere of hot steam,” said Dr Southworth.
The researchers say while it is unlikely that any life-forms could survive on this world, the discovery of an atmosphere is encouraging in the hunt for extraterrestrial life.
Dr Southworth said: “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.”
Commenting on the research Marek Kukula, the public astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said: “This is a nice proof of concept.
“If the technology can detect an atmosphere today, then it bodes well for being able to detect and study the atmospheres of even more Earth-like planets in the not-too-distant future.”
BBC Article – http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39521344