Scientists Discover Planet That May Support Human Life

According to a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, scientists discovered a planet that may support human life, named Gliese 12 b.

Scientists Discover Planet That May Support Human Life 1

An unusual and intriguing finding has been uncovered by astronomers: an exoplanet 40 light-years away that resembles Earth and may be somewhat warmer than Earth. In the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a new publication titled “Gliese 12 b, A Temperate Earth-sized Planet at 12 Parsecs Discovered with TESS and CHEOPS,” was released.

Gliese 12 b is a possibly habitable planet that orbits its host star every 12.8 days. It is somewhat smaller than Earth and has a surface temperature estimated at 42°C (107°F), which is lower than the majority of the 5,000+ exoplanets that have been confirmed to date.

That is presuming it lacks an atmosphere, which is the critical next step in determining whether or not it is habitable. It might have no atmosphere at all, an atmosphere more like that of Venus—which went through a runaway greenhouse effect that turned it into a 400°C (752°F) hellhole—or an atmosphere unlike any other in our solar system.

Finding the answer is crucial because it would indicate whether Gliese 12 b can sustain temperatures high enough for liquid water—and maybe life—to exist on its surface. It would also provide light on how and why Venus and Earth formed in such dissimilar ways.

While there are many exoplanets that resemble Earth that have been found, only a small number of them, according to NASA, merit further investigation, Gliese 12 b is by no means the first.

It is described as “the nearest, transiting, temperate, Earth-size world located to date” and maybe a candidate for additional James Webb Space Telescope research.

Proxima Centauri b is the nearest Earth-like exoplanet to us, situated just four light-years away, and it’s also possibly the most well-known. We still have a lot to learn about it, though, because it is not a transiting world. Among other things, we need to find out if it has an atmosphere and whether it might support life.

The transit method, in which a planet passes in front of its star from our point of view and causes a dip in the brightness of the host star, is used to find the majority of exoplanets.

Certain wavelengths of the star’s light are absorbed by the exoplanet’s atmosphere as it travels across it during transit. Telescopes like the Webb can identify a collection of chemical fingerprints from the transit because various gas molecules absorb different colors.

Gliese 12 b may also be important because it could shed light on whether cold stars, which make up the bulk of stars in our Milky Way galaxy, can support temperate planets with atmospheres and are thus habitable.

It revolves around Gliese 12, a cold red dwarf star located around 40 light-years from Earth in the constellation Pisces.

According to Shishir Dholakia, a doctoral student at the Center for Astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, “Gliese 12 b represents one of the best targets to study whether Earth-size planets orbiting cool stars can retain their atmospheres, a crucial step to advance our understanding of habitability on planets across our galaxy.”

Along with Larissa Palethorpe, a PhD candidate at University College London and the University of Edinburgh, he co-led a research team.

The host star of the exoplanet is roughly 60% hotter than our star and is about 27% the size of our sun.

Nonetheless, the gap between Gliese 12 and the newly discovered planet is only 7% of the length that separates Earth and the sun. As a result, Gliese 12 b receives from its star roughly 85% of what Venus receives and 1.6 times as much energy as Earth does from the sun.

Scientists Discover Planet That May Support Human Life 2
Gliese 12 b’s estimated size may be as large as Earth or slightly smaller — comparable to Venus in our solar system. This artist’s concept compares Earth with different possible Gliese 12 b interpretations, from one with no atmosphere to one with a thick Venus-like one. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (Caltech-IPAC)

Because of this variation in solar radiation, the planet’s surface temperature is strongly influenced by its atmospheric conditions, which makes it significant. The average surface temperature on Earth is 15°C (59°F), in contrast to the projected 42°C (107°F) surface temperature of Gliese 12b.

“Atmospheres trap heat and—depending on the type—can change the actual surface temperature substantially,” Dholakia explained. “We are quoting the planet’s ‘equilibrium temperature,” which is the temperature the planet would be if it had no atmosphere.

“Much of the scientific value of this planet is to understand what kind of atmosphere it could have. Since Gliese 12 b gets in between the amount of light as Earth and Venus get from the sun, it will be valuable for bridging the gap between these two planets in our solar system.”

Palethorpe added, “It is thought that Earth’s and Venus’s first atmospheres were stripped away and then replenished by volcanic outgassing and bombardments from residual material in the solar system.

“The Earth is habitable, but Venus is not due to its complete loss of water. Because Gliese 12 b is between Earth and Venus in temperature, its atmosphere could teach us a lot about the habitability pathways planets take as they develop.”

The researchers’ discovery was aided by observations made by NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), which they shared with another team in Tokyo.

“We’ve found the nearest, transiting, temperate, Earth-size world located to date,” said Masayuki Kuzuhara, a project assistant professor at the Astrobiology Center in Tokyo, who co-led a research team with Akihiko Fukui, a project assistant professor at the University of Tokyo.

“Although we don’t yet know whether it possesses an atmosphere, we’ve been thinking of it as an exo-Venus, with similar size and energy received from its star as our planetary neighbor in the solar system.”

The storminess of its star plays a major role in maintaining its atmosphere. Due to their propensity for magnetic activity, red dwarfs frequently produce intense X-ray flares.

Both teams’ assessments, however, conclude that Gliese 12 does not exhibit such dramatic behavior, which gives rise to the possibility that Gliese 12 b’s atmosphere is still intact.

“We know of only a handful of temperate planets similar to Earth that are both close enough to us and meet other criteria needed for this kind of study, called transmission spectroscopy, using current facilities,” said Michael McElwain, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and a co-author of the Kuzuhara and Fukui paper.

“To better understand the diversity of atmospheres and evolutionary outcomes for these planets, we need more examples like Gliese 12 b.”

Last year, GreatGameIndia reported that, according to a study published in Nature, scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, and the California Institute of Technology observed a star swallowing a planet for the first time.

GreatGameIndia is being actively targeted by powerful forces who do not wish us to survive. Your contribution, however small help us keep afloat. We accept voluntary payment for the content available for free on this website via UPI, PayPal and Bitcoin.

Support GreatGameIndia


Leave a Reply