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Atmosphere Detected on Super-Earth GJ 1132b

7 Apr 2017, 15:43 UTC
Atmosphere Detected on Super-Earth GJ 1132b
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There’s interesting news this morning about planets around M-dwarfs. A team of astronomers led by John Southworth (Keele University, UK) has detected an atmosphere around the transiting super-Earth GJ 1132b. While we’ve examined the atmospheres of gas giants and have detected atmospheres on the super-Earths 55 Cancri e and GJ 3470 b, GJ 1132b is the smallest world yet where we’ve detected one. 39 light years from Earth in the constellation Vela, the transiting planet is 1.4 Earth radii in size, with a mass 1.6 times that of our world.
We’re continuing to move, in other words, into the realm of lower-mass planets when we study planetary atmospheres, an investigation that will be crucial as we look for biosignatures in distant solar systems. With GJ 1132b, we’re dealing with a planet too close to its star to be habitable (it receives 19 times more stellar radiation than the Earth does, and has an equilibrium temperature of 650 K, or 377° C). But finding a thick atmosphere here is encouraging given the level of flare and stellar wind activity on M-dwarfs.
Such activity could strip a planet of its atmosphere in some scenarios, so the survival of atmospheres on planets in ...

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