HONG KONG: Astronomers have discovered a new Venus-like rocky exoplanet 39 light years away, which may be cool enough to potentially host an atmosphere.
If it does, it is close enough that we could study that atmosphere in detail with the Hubble Space Telescope and future observatories like the Giant Magellan Telescope, researchers said.
“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) in US.
“We suspect it will have a Venus-like atmosphere too, and if it does we can’t wait to get a whiff,” said Charbonneau.
“This planet is going to be a favourite target of astronomers for years to come,” said lead author Zachory Berta-Thompson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The planet known as GJ 1132b orbits a red dwarf star only one-fifth the size of our Sun. The star is also cooler and much fainter than the Sun, emitting just 1/200th as much light.
GJ 1132b circles its star every 1.6 days at a distance of 1.4 million miles.
As a result, GJ 1132b is baked to a temperature of about 232 degrees Celsius. Such temperatures would boil off any water the planet may have once held, but still allows for the presence of an atmosphere.
It is also significantly cooler than any other exoplanet confirmed to be rocky, researchers said.