Space scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have discovered GJ 1132b, a Venus-like planet that is found orbiting a red dwarf star. The newly-found planet is about 39 light-years away and averagely hot, but then cold enough to have its own atmosphere. This was published in the journal Nature.
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"Our ultimate goal is to find a twin Earth, but along the way we've found a twin Venus," said astronomer David Charbonneau of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "We suspect it will have a Venus-like atmosphere too, and if it does we can't wait to get a whiff."
Lead author Zachory Berta-Thompson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) added that the new planet might become a favorite target of many astronomers for years to come.
The new planet GJ 1132b was detected orbiting a small red star that is about one-fifth our sun every 1.6 days at a distance of 1.4 million years; the orbit of mercury in our own solar system is about 36 million miles.
GJ 1132b has a temperature of nearly 450 degrees Fahrenheit – a thermal heat that would have evaporated any water it may once contain, yet its atmosphere remains intact. Other planets such as CoRoT-7b and Kepler-10b are very hot at a scorching temperature of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The MEarth-South array which had been scouting space for planets orbiting red dwarf stars located GJ 1132b. There are eight 40-cm robotic telescopes in the MEarth-South array, and they are located at the Cerro-Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
The Magellan Clay telescopes in Chile also provided further details of GJ 1132b after the MEarth-South array found it in real time passing across the surface of its red dwarf star. The team of researchers discovered that GJ 1132b is 16% bigger than Earth, and has a diameter of about 9,200 miles. It has a mass 60% greater than Earth.
Its composition is rocky and similar to what Earth has, and its gravity force is almost like that obtainable on Earth.
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The scientists plan to use the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes, together with proposed observatories such as the James Webb Space Telescope to further examine GJ 1132b. To this extent, the researchers believe the new planet might have sister planets that need to be detected as well in the nearest future.