Astronomers announced Wednesday they have discovered an earth-like planet orbiting a star relatively near the solar system.
It’s an exciting find for researchers because they can closely observe it with a telescope
Dubbed GJ 1132b, the exoplanet – a planet outside our solar system – is “arguably the most important planet ever found outside the solar system,” according to commentary supplementing the report by scientist Drake Deming of the University of Maryland.
GJ 1132b is 39 light-years from Earth whereas other known exoplanets are at least three times that distance. Even though the newfound world is still 370 trillion kilometers (230 trillion miles) away, scientists can use current telescope technology to peer into its atmosphere and learn much more about it than any other exoplanet yet discovered.
“This planet is going to be a favorite target of astronomers for years to come,” lead study author Zachory Berta-Thompson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in a statement Wednesday.
GJ 1132b is similar to earth in size with a diameter of 14,800 kilometers (9,200 miles), about 16 percent larger than our planet, and it also has a comparable rocky composition. Even though its home star is one-fifth the size of our sun and much cooler, the coolest regions of the freshly discovered exoplanet have a temperature of 232 degrees Celsius (450 degrees Fahrenheit) – roughly the same temperature of a typical home oven on its highest setting.
“Our ultimate goal is to find a twin Earth, but along the way we've found a twin Venus,” noted David Charbonneau, astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and co-author of the paper, while describing the exoplanet in a statement. “We suspect it will have a Venus-like atmosphere too, and if it does we can't wait to get a whiff.”
The full paper overviewing the discovery will be published Thursday in the journal Nature.