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. 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 led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Zachory Berta-Thompson discovered the planet in May.  The team used 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.  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 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 (121)
  • gavinh1-hor
    11/23/2015 - 01:34 p.m.

    The authors purpose for writing this article is to inform us about a new planet that is called GJ 1132, and it is about 39 light years away. This planet is very much like Venus with its very hot tempters, and scientists predicate that its atmosphere will be like Venuses too. One thing that I learned about this article is that there is a new planet that we discovered. There were no opinions in this article.

  • landonp-
    11/23/2015 - 02:00 p.m.

    They want to find one for a couple of different reasons. I think the main reason is if something happens to earth we can go there. That is why I think they are looking for a twin earth.

  • maggiej-hor
    11/23/2015 - 02:14 p.m.

    Scientists want to find a twin earth because where we live right now, in a few million years, we could get burned up by the sun. That would result in life as we know it to completely die. So I think that the authors purpose to this article was to inform the reader what's going on in space. What I have learned from this article is that not a lot of times do we discover something new in the universe. So, its important to get accurate information about it before you do anything.

  • treyr-hor
    11/23/2015 - 02:14 p.m.

    The Smithsonian's purpose for writing this article is to inform people about another planet being spotted by scientists. I learned that this new planet is very hot, it is bigger than Earth by a little, and it is kind of like Mercury. I agree with, the new planet is to hot to live on, because it is like Mercury and Mercury is hot and close to the sun.

  • owenh-ver
    11/24/2015 - 02:00 p.m.

    this is cool and if we could find another planet to live on then it would change human lives forever

  • zackd-ver
    11/25/2015 - 12:09 a.m.

    This kind of stuff has always interested me and if I ever want to id say I could peruse being and astrophysicist or an astronomer this kind of planet is cool and it's also cool to think about the possibilities to come when talking about space travel.

  • macil-nar
    11/30/2015 - 03:05 p.m.

    I think they are looking for a twin earth because if something was to happen to the real earth then we would have some where to live.

  • jamesj-1-nar
    11/30/2015 - 04:00 p.m.

    The reason scientists want to ind a twin Earth is so the human race will survive longer if our earth dies. This will continue the development of our race and its knowledge. I believe that scientists will find a twin earth in 20-30 years but migrate there in 350-400 years.

  • isabelles-nar
    11/30/2015 - 05:36 p.m.

    I think it's a good idea to have a back-up planet, just in case something happens to Earth and we can't live here anymore. I would love to live on another planet for a while, just to see what its like.

  • diyap-nar
    11/30/2015 - 08:16 p.m.

    diyap-nar
    That is cool that the scientists are discovering a plant that is Earths' twin so than we can know another life planet that is awesome. Scientists want to find a Earths' twin because if something destroyed Earth like an asteroid the scientists' are trying to replace earth with another life planet. This is important to Earths' people because they can have a new life so they don't explode.

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