The imaginatively Named GJ 1132b Is a Lot Closer Than Any Others Discovered
Exoplanet GJ 1132b has been discovered by group of researchers and the closeness of is planet is causing ripples of excitement with Astronomers. Exoplanet GJ 1132b is around 39 light years from Earth which although not as close as a walk down to the shops it will enable scientists to study it’s potential atmosphere. GJ 1132b is found in the Vela Constellation which can be seen from the southern hemisphere.
Is this the most important planet ever found outside the solar system? Leave your thoughts below and don’t forget to share this important discovery.
The planet circles a small red M-dwarf star called GJ 1132 (which is where GJ 1132b gets its creative name), which is only one-fifth the size of our Sun. It’s a much cooler and fainter star, but the exoplanet orbits so close to it, the surface temperatures reach an eye-watering 260°C (500°F).
The planet is estimated to be only 16 percent larger than Earth. “GJ 1132b’s average density resembles that of the Earth, and is well matched by a rock/iron bulk composition,” the researchers note in a letter published in Nature.
Even though it’s so hot, the planet is cooler than many other balls of fire we’ve found in our search for exoplanets, in fact it’s cool enough to have a substantial atmosphere, which has astronomers excited.
“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,” MIT astronomer Zachory Berta-Thompson told Jennifer Chu at MIT News. “We finally have a target to point our telescopes at, and [can] dig much deeper into the workings of a rocky exoplanet, and what makes it tick.”
The team, led by MIT researchers, found GJ 1132b using the MEarth-South Observatory, an array of eight 40-cm large robotic telescopes in the mountains in Chile, where some of the best astronomy takes place. This array is built specifically to monitor the abundant M-dwarf stars in the night sky, and look for any dips in brightness that might indicate an exoplanet.
On May 10 this year, one of the telescopes detected a faint dip from GJ 1132, and immediately started taking measurements every 45 seconds for confirmation. You can watch a cool time-lapse of this discovery below: it’s all business as usual, telescopes scanning all over the sky, until one of the robots stays transfixed on the data blip that turned out to be a new, exciting exoplanet.