They discover an exoplanet the size of Earth with potential for life 40 light years away

More analysis is needed to see if the Gliese 12 b exoplanet has an atmosphere and maintains temperatures that allow liquid water.

They discover an exoplanet the size of Earth with potential for life 40 light years away

Gliese 12 b artistic concept preserving a fine atmosphere. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R Hurt (Caltech-IPAC)

Astronomers have discovered a potentially habitable exoplanet about 40 light years from Earth, one of the closest yet. The exciting discovery of Gliese 12 b is detailed in a new study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

According to the study, the exoplanet’s average surface temperature is 42 degrees Celsius, lower than most of the approximately 5,000 exoplanets discovered so far. Its size is comparable to that of Venus and is slightly smaller than that of Earth.

Gliese 12 b, however, is warmer than Earth’s average surface temperature of 15°C. Still, researchers advocate for further investigation of the exoplanet, including its atmosphere, which is essential for habitable conditions.

Read more: They discover water vapor on a potentially “habitable” planet

“We have found the closest transiting, temperate, Earth-sized world located to date,” said Masayuki Kuzuhara, an assistant professor on the project at the Tokyo Astrobiology Center, who co-led a research team with Akihiko Fukui. assistant professor of the project. at the University of Tokyo, he said in a statement.

“Investigation of Earth-sized planets is important as we move forward to try to infer the number of real Earth analogues, to solidify how we understand our own place in the Universe,” said Larissa Palethorpe, a PhD student at the University. from Edinburgh. With feet on the ground.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) had previously identified Gliese 12 b like a possible planet candidate.

The team used observations from TESS and the European Space Agency’s ExOPlanet or CHEOPS characterizing satellite to validate Gliese 12b.

Scientists discovered that Gliese 12 b orbits Gliese 12, an M dwarf star (a type of low-mass star), every 12.8 days. This star has seven planets around it, all of which are about the size of Earth and are probably rocky.

Of these planets, three are within the habitable zone. The habitable zone is the distance from a star at which liquid water can exist on the surfaces of the planets that orbit it.

Read more: NASA’s TESS confirms 3 new exoplanets

Additionally, the star is metal-poor, suggesting it may have weaker magnetic fields and more volcanism than Earth. Because the host star has low magnetic activity, researchers believe that Gliese 12 b may have an atmosphere.

There is a possibility that the exoplanet has an atmosphere similar to Earth’s, but it could also be a different type, according to the team.

Further analysis could also reveal whether Gliese 12 b is habitable. “We tend to define habitability in terms of liquid water, rather than where humanity could support life. So while this temperature would be a little high for humans to live comfortably, it doesn’t necessarily mean that other life forms can’t thrive in these conditions,” Palethorpe. explained.

It could also shed light on the evolution of Earth and Venus and why they appear so different.

Read more: How did the James Webb Telescope detect CO2 on a giant Jupiter-like planet? Experts tell us

The Earth retained its water, while Venus’ runaway greenhouse effect caused it to escape. Researchers could detect signs of whether the exoplanet is witnessing a runaway greenhouse effect. If they do not find water in the future, it could indicate that such a process has already occurred, as on Venus.

Gliese 12 b, according to the article, is a potential target for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), as it can detect Atmospheric characteristics of the planets.

The team has not Currently we have not yet submitted a JWST proposal for this objective. For now, they are trying to calculate its mass, apparent density and radius to understand the internal structure of the exoplanet.

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