For the first time in the history of Science, an atmosphere has been detected by scientists around an Earth-like planet, located 39 light years away in the constellation of Vela. Planet Gliese 1132b or GJ 1132b is 1.4 times of the size of the Earth.
However, it is highly unlikely that it could be habitable with over 250C temperature. Still, scientists say it is one of the most important discovery as it paves the way for the possibility that life could thrive beyond the solar system.
GJ 1132b planet was discovered back in 2015 but at that time scientists didn’t have any idea whether it had an atmosphere. On April 6, 2017, it was reported in the Astronomical Journal that recent observations revealed that an atmosphere around it exists. Interestingly, the atmosphere has traces of water and methane.
An ESO/MPG telescope at the European South Observatory in Chile was used by the researchers who studied the planet in seven different wavelengths.
“We managed to obtain the telescope time to do the observations, and indeed found an atmosphere of a similar size to that which we hoped might be there,” Dr. John Southworth, lead author of the paper in Journal, from Keele University in the UK, told Wired.
When different wavelengths were studied, it was found that GJ 1132b planet appeared larger at one wavelength compared to others.
“These things don’t pop up in the way you expect,” said Southworth. “We found evidence for the atmosphere at one wavelength band and that wasn’t what we were expecting.”
After observation, scientists suggest that the planet has a thick atmosphere rich in steam and/or methane. "One possibility is that it is a 'water world' with an atmosphere of hot steam," said Dr Southworth.
"What we have shown is that planets around low mass stars can have atmospheres and because there are so many of those in the Universe, it makes it that much more likely that one might have life,” he added.
According to scientists, the ‘super-Earth’ appears to be cloaked in a thick layer of gases that may be water or methane or a mix of both. The study has been published in the Astronomical Journal.