Astronomers Discover the Closest Earth-Sized Exoplanet As of Yet

Thursday, 12 November 2015 - 8:52PM
Space
Astronomy
Thursday, 12 November 2015 - 8:52PM
Astronomers Discover the Closest Earth-Sized Exoplanet As of Yet
Not long ago, scientists found the closest rocky exoplanet to earth orbiting a star in the constellation Cassiopeia. This was a huge deal, as most of the closest exoplanets discovered to date are gas giants. Now an even more exciting exoplanet discovery has been made: a rocky planet near the size of the Earth is orbiting an red dwarf star just 39 light years away.


The planet is named GJ 1132b, and though it didn't break the record for being the closest rocky exoplanet to the earth, it is the closest earth size rocky exoplanet to the earth. Sadly, it seems to be quite an inhospitable place, so there's not much hope for finding alien life there.

The planet is a sweltering 440 degrees fahrenheit, though this is actually much cooler than most other rocky exoplanets that have recently been discovered. It's tidally locked, meaning it has two sides, each of which are permanently day or night (much like the what happens with the moon due to its synchronous orbit). However, GJ 1132b is only 1.2 times the size of the earth and 1.6 times the mass of the earth.

The planet was found using the MEarth-South Observatory located in the mountains of Chile. While it may not be habitable, the fact that it does seem to have an atmosphere coupled with its proximity could make it a prime target for future study. Some scientists are hopeful that the James Webb Space Telescope will get around to taking a look at it after it's expected launch in 2018.

The number of discovered exoplanets has been well over a thousand for almost a year now, and there's even more planetary candidates that could potentially be ruled as extrasolar planets as well. It's exciting to think that scientists have come so far in their studies of these celestial bodies, but there's still such a long way to go. When the James Webb Space Telescope finally launches, astronomers will hopefully be able to gain an even deeper understanding of exoplanet atmospheres - which will be one of the telescope's main research focuses. Who knows? Maybe some great discovery concerning exoplanet atmospheres will be made by further examining GJ 1132b in the future.
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