Gliese 1132b: Astronomers find a super-Earth that may have a watery atmosphere, just 39 light-years away – Los Angeles Times

A team of astronomers says they’ve caught wind of an atmosphere around a super-Earth known as GJ 1132b, just 39 light-years away. The findings, described in the Astronomical Journal, mark another step on the road to determining whether alien worlds near and far might be capable of hosting life.

“It’s a great proof of concept that we can observe atmospheres on these small, rocky planets even from the ground,” said Laura Schaefer, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University who was not involved in the paper. “That’s really exciting and that means that we’ll be able to do it with more planets down the line as we find more planets of this size.”

The planet, Gliese 1132b, was first spotted in 2015 orbiting a small, dim M dwarf (a type of red dwarf) star about one-quarter of the Sun’s radius. At the time, the discovery excited scientists even though — with a surface temperature of about 620 degrees Fahrenheit — the planet wasn’t considered habitable.

“Receiving 19 times more stellar radiation than the Earth, the planet is too hot to be habitable but is cool enough to support a substantial atmosphere,” the authors of the 2015 study in Nature wrote. Because the host star was so close by, they added, “existing and upcoming telescopes will be able to observe the composition and dynamics of the planetary atmosphere.”

Gliese 1132b: Astronomers find a super-Earth that may have a watery atmosphere, just 39 light-years away – Los Angeles Times

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