Potentially habitable ‘exo-Venus’ with Earth-like temperature discovered | Science & Technology

Astronomers have made the rare and tantalising discovery of an Earth-like exoplanet 40 light-years away that may be just a little warmer than our own world.

The potentially-habitable planet, named Gliese 12 b, orbits its host star every 12.8 days, is comparable in size to Venus — so slightly smaller than Earth — and has an estimated surface temperature of 42°C (107°F), which is lower than most of the 5,000-odd exoplanets confirmed so far.

That is assuming it has no atmosphere, however, which is the crucial next step to establishing if it is habitable.

It may have an Earth-like atmosphere, one more akin to Venus — which experienced a runaway greenhouse effect that made it a 400°C (752°F) hellhole — no atmosphere, or perhaps a different kind of atmosphere not found in our solar system.

Getting an answer is vital because it would reveal if Gliese 12 b can maintain temperatures suitable for liquid water — and possibly life — to exist on its surface, while also unlocking answers about how and why Earth and Venus evolved so differently.

Gliese 12 b is by no means the first Earth-like exoplanet to have been discovered, but as NASA has said, there are only a handful of worlds like it that warrant a closer look.

It has been billed as “the nearest, transiting, temperate, Earth-size world located to date” and a potential target for further investigation by the US space agency’s £7.5billion James Webb Space Telescope.

The closest Earth-like exoplanet to us — and possibly the most famous — is Proxima Centauri b, which is only 4 light-years away. However, because it is not a transiting world we still have a lot to learn about it, including whether it has an atmosphere and the potential to harbour life.

Most exoplanets are discovered using the transit method, where a planet passes in front of its star from our point of view, causing a dip in the host star’s brightness.

During a transit, the star’s light also passes through an exoplanet’s atmosphere and some…

Source www.sciencedaily.com

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