New planet is hot. Real hot. (Thinkstock/Dana Berry/SkyWorks/NASA via AP)
New planet is hot. Real hot.
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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. It is 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.  That is 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 was led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Zachory Berta-Thompson.  The team discovered the planet in May.  The team used telescopes in Chile. Berta-Thompson 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.  That is 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.  He is with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and is 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 is due to launch in 2018.  It 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."   That is because of its proximity and also the small size of its star.  It 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 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 (210)
  • dominicp-hor
    11/23/2015 - 11:19 a.m.

    I think the authors purpose was to inform because the whole article was about planets and gj1132b.I learned that there are a bunch of planets we haven't discovered yet. I agree with the statement that astronomers goal is to find a twin earth because our earth is slowly running out of resources to support the human and all races.

  • maxr1-hor
    11/23/2015 - 11:22 a.m.

    I think the Smithsonian wrote this article to inform of a planet much like ours. A planet possibly habitable by humans. I think this planet could be home to the humans in the future. I think this article is kind of like a commercial for a new home .

  • kieranz1-hor
    11/23/2015 - 11:43 a.m.

    I believe that the author's purpose of writing this article was to inform people of the planets outside of our solar system. From this article I learned what light years stands for, also I learned how many planets are similar to the ones I our solar system. I agree with everything said in this article and hope that when this planet cools that it is very similar to Earth.

  • abbyh-sut
    11/23/2015 - 11:59 a.m.

    Scientists want to find a twin Earth because in the future they want people to live on that twin Earth.

  • shawn-rod
    11/23/2015 - 12:06 p.m.

    deeeeez nutz

  • graceb-cur
    11/23/2015 - 01:56 p.m.

    so we can find something to compare to and to comferm the unknown like ufo's. and plus its just flat out cool




    ps error 404 wont let me take the quiz

  • ravenc-hor
    11/23/2015 - 02:15 p.m.

    The author's purpose in writing this article was to inform the reader about the newly found planet GJ 1132b. I have learned that GJ 1132b is very much like Venus. It's like Venus because it has a similar atmosphere. I also learned that the new planet is about 230 trillion miles away. I agree with the author that this could be the most important planet outside of our solar system found so far. I agree because if GJ 1132b is similar with Venus, then there are probably other planets like the ones in our solar systems and GJ 1132b could help us find them.

  • annabel1226-yyca
    11/23/2015 - 07:25 p.m.

    I think we will be in pain if we are in that planet. I wish there could be more planets that we could live. I want more planets so that we could split the people in Earth and put the half of them in an another planet. I hope we could find more technology to find more planets that we could live. I really hope that the space companies could make more new technologies for people.

  • william1108-yyca
    11/23/2015 - 08:40 p.m.

    WOW! There is a twin Venus and there may be a twin Earth. But in the title of the article I don't know why it is named " New plant is hot. Real hot". Shouldn't it be " Ne planet is hot. Real hot". I wonder if the title is actually correct. Maybe I just don't understand the title. But it is really cool. it must be also very hot. But I am not sure if that thing is actually real. If it is real maybe I will read books about it and learn more about it.

  • isabellaa-612-
    11/24/2015 - 09:09 a.m.

    Scientists need to find a new twin earth because if we dont we will die. Weather its from pollution or the sun expanding and killing us we need another planet to evacuate onto.

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