New planet is hot. Real hot. (Thinkstock/Dana Berry/SkyWorks/NASA via AP)
New planet is hot. Real hot.
Lexile

There's a new rocky Earth-size planet on our galactic block and it's a sizzler.
 
Astrophysicists have revealed the newfound world, GJ 1132b, named after the small nearby star that it orbits.
 
Even though the mercury can hit 450 degrees at this planet, it's cool enough to have a thick Venus-like atmosphere. Lucky for scientists, it's close enough to find out.
 
Planet GJ 1132b is just 39 light-years away, within the atmospheric study range of the Hubble Space Telescope. Given that a single light-year represents 5.87 trillion miles - the distance light can travel in a year - this planet is about 230 trillion miles away.
 
A team led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Zachory Berta-Thompson discovered the planet in May, using telescopes in Chile. He and his colleagues reported their findings in the journal Nature.
 
While the scientists say the planet is too hot for life, it's still much cooler than the rocky fireballs known to orbit stars beyond our solar system. The official term for a planet outside our solar system is exoplanet.
 
"If we find this pretty hot planet has managed to hang onto its atmosphere over the billions of years it's been around, that bodes well for the long-term goal of studying cooler planets that could have life," Berta-Thompson said in a statement.
 
Berta-Thompson and the others estimate that GJ 1132b has a diameter of about 9,200 miles, slightly bigger than Earth. Its mass, however, is thought to be 60 percent greater than Earth's.
 
Its home star - GJ 1132 - is a red dwarf one-fifth the size of our sun. The planet circles every 1.6 days from just 1.4 million miles out, thus the heat wave. A slight dip in the starlight every 1.6 days was the giveaway for the observing team.
 
"Our ultimate goal is to find a twin Earth," said astronomer David Charbonneau of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, one of the authors, "but along the way we've found a twin Venus."
 
He added 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 astronomers are seeking follow-up observations from Hubble and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The James Webb Space Telescope, due to launch in 2018, and other future craft could provide even more details.
 
In a companion article in Nature, the University of Maryland's Drake Deming points out astronomers will be able to study GJ 1132b with "unprecedented fidelity" given its proximity and also the small size of its star, which should minimize light interference with the measurements. That, in large part, makes it in his words "arguably the most important planet ever found outside the solar system." He was not involved with the study.
 
It's unknown, for now, whether this star system harbors other planets.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do scientists want to find a “twin Earth?”
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (17)
  • petersd1-gau
    11/23/2015 - 01:39 p.m.

    This is a awesome looking planet, but I wouldn't want to live on this planet.

  • julianc-bag
    12/01/2015 - 08:08 p.m.

    We would want to find a twin earth because there might be life on the planet.

  • laurenc-bag
    12/03/2015 - 09:33 p.m.

    Scientists might want to find a "twin Earth" to possibly start a civilization there, or host a special study.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    12/08/2015 - 02:29 a.m.

    There are many other stars and planets outside our solar system. The universe is really big and there are thousands of more galaxies. This new planet was given the name GJ 1132b. This planet is also close enough to be observed by telescopes. This planet has some similarities to the planet Venus so it is kind of like a twin Venus. This planet is outside of our solar system and is four hundred fifty degrees. This planet is kind of unknown to the people right now but it is still being investigated.

  • sahqueenw-pay
    12/08/2015 - 10:40 a.m.

    This "new planet" discovery is pretty cool to me! This new discovery proves that there are actually more celestial bodies out in our universe that have yet to be discovered. As we all know, our universe is endless. There are always more and more plants, stars and more that are bound to be discovered.

  • robertc-pay
    12/08/2015 - 10:53 a.m.

    For so many years scientist are trying to find a twin earth. I think scientist wants to find a "twin Earth" because It is nearly impossible to find a planet that is not too hot and not too cool for human being.

  • matthewc-pay
    12/08/2015 - 10:55 a.m.

    This is really interesting. I would like to see the planet. I think its cool they found a hot but cool planet out so far, that it is even cooler than the hot planets here.

  • beyoncef-pay
    12/08/2015 - 12:11 p.m.

    I am still quite unsure as to why people are still "desperate" to find another Earth-like body. It seems useless and a waste of time. Though the science may seem interesting in itself the whole process is deary and unbearable. What happens when they do find another planet that can sustain life? Then what? I get that scientist feel that there is other life out there but it's worthless to go after it. We only need one Earth in this galaxy.

    • aidanc2-sch
      12/08/2015 - 03:30 p.m.

      Scientists believe that if they find an earth like body there could be life witch is a long spread search that has been in progress for many years.

    • aidanc2-sch
      12/08/2015 - 04:32 p.m.

      Also and or catastrophes could happen causing us to flee earth.

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