Is Gliese 1132b the habitable Earth-like exoplanet we’ve been waiting for?
Well, we’ve been burned before.
First there was the rock-like Proxima Centauri b, which was hailed as potentially suitable for life, located in the “Goldilocks” habitable zone of our nearest star system neighbor. But then, in February, NASA research revealed the planet is most likely a dead world due to the instability of its host star.
Then there was NASA’s announcement that seven Earth-sized “exoplanets” had been discovered 39 light years away orbiting a dwarf star called Trappist 1. Astronomers speculated that as many as three of these exoplanets might be able to sustain life. However, that theory was shot down once its dwarf star was revealed to be far too volatile to sustain life in its orbit.
The latest discovery is called Gliese 1132b, another Earth-like exoplanet located 39 light years away, this one located in the constellation Vela. What makes this discovery so exciting is that astronomers have detected an atmosphere surrounding Gliese 1132b, a necessary condition for any planet if it’s going to sustain extra-terrestrial life.
Lead researcher John Southworth from the U.K.’s Keele University put the discovery in perspective, saying in a statement: “While this is not the detection of life on another planet, it’s an important step in the right direction: the detection of an atmosphere around the super-Earth GJ 1132b marks the first time that an atmosphere has been detected around an Earth-like planet other than Earth itself.”
Much more needs to be learned about the atmosphere of Gliese 1132b, but so far astronomers theorize that it may be a “water world” planet with an atmosphere made up of
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