Scientists have discovered a new rocky planet 39 light years distant that may be the most important extra-solar planet ever discovered. The planet is called GJ1132b and it is in the constellation of Vela in the southern sky. One of the important things about this planet is that it is close enough for scientists to observe any atmosphere that it might have.
The planet is 16% larger than Earth and is closer to us than any other Earth-sized rocky planet ever discovered. Scientists hope that telescopes will be able to make out the chemistry of its atmosphere, speed of winds on the surface, and the color of the sunset.
GJ1132b orbits a red dwarf star that is a fifth the size of our Sun. The red dwarf is much cooler and fainter than the sun, but the planet orbits so close that surface temperatures can reach 260C. Scientists say that makes the planet too hot to have liquid water on the surface making it unlikely to have life as we know it.
The big thing with this planet is that since it is close enough for atmospheric observations, the processes used for atmospheric investigations can be honed for use on other planets. Scientists hope to one day be able to find molecules via atmospheric observations of distant planets that signal life.
SOURCE: The Guardian