SEP 03, 2016 11:41 AM PDT

Exoplanet Resembling Venus Could Still Have Oxygen in its Atmosphere

Scientists have had their eyes on an exoplanet dubbed Gj 1132b that was discovered last year and seems to resemble Venus pretty closely. About 39 light-years away, it’s not so far away that we can’t study it, but it’s still far enough away that it’s difficult to draw conclusions to our many questions about it.
 

Venus' "twin" Gj 1132b might still have oxygen in its atmosphere.

 Image Credit: CFA/Dana Berry/Skyworks Digital

The qualities of this exoplanet are definitely very different than Venus in many ways, but similar in others. For example, the chemical makeup is similar, but it orbits its parent star, a red dwarf, at only about 1.4 million miles away, which is significantly closer than Earth or Venus from our Sun. This makes Gj 1132b a hot place.
 
But is there any oxygen on it? That’s the million-dollar question, and in a paper published on arXiv, scientists tackle the many scenarios for how the planet could still have oxygen in its atmosphere by making several predictions that can be tested in the future.
 
The close relativity to its star means that the planet gets bombarded with UV light, and this means water can’t possibly exist. Because of the heat, which can reach a scorching 450º Fahrenheit, astronomers agree that life on Gj 1132b is extremely unlikely.
 
"On cooler planets, oxygen could be a sign of alien life and habitability. But on a hot planet like GJ 1132b, it's a sign of the exact opposite - a planet that's being baked and sterilized," said lead author Laura Schaefer.
 
If there ever was any water, then the UV light would have ripped those H2O molecules apart into lone hydrogen and oxygen molecules. The excited hydrogen atoms are going to be the quickest to escape the planet’s atmosphere due to their nature, so scientists think some oxygen could still exist there.

"This planet might be the first time we detect oxygen on a rocky planet outside the solar system," said co-author Robin Wordsworth.

One of the things that might play a role are the possible molten magma oceans that could be a result of the close proximity to its host star. It’s said that the magma ocean could absorb up to 10% of the planet’s oxygen resources, while the other 90% gets blasted into space.
 
There is no clear-cut answers to this question yet, but if the theory is true, then further observations with other equipment designed for this sort of thing, like the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, could provide clue.
 
Finding out more about Gj 1132b could also help us to learn more about how our very own planet, Venus, was formed.
 
Source: EurekAlert

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
SEP 02, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 02, 2018
International Space Station Crew Repairs Small Air Leak
The International Space Station is an Earth-orbiting laboratory that operates in the vacuum of outer space. That said, it needs to maintain a constant air...
SEP 03, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 03, 2018
The Moon is Close, So Why Don't We Colonize it Instead of Mars?
If you’ve been paying any attention to NASA and SpaceX lately, then you might’ve caught wind about their mutual interest in colonizing Mars wit...
OCT 02, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 02, 2018
NASA's Kepler Space Telescope Enters Sleep Mode to Preserve Data
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope earned a reputation for being quite the capable exoplanet hunter, but after all these years of memorable service to the...
OCT 10, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 10, 2018
OnSight Lets Scientists Study the Martian Surface with Virtual Reality
NASA’s Curiosity rover has been physically exploring the surface of Mars since 2012, but as it rolls along, it sends surface data back to scientists...
OCT 21, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 21, 2018
Classifying Oumuamua Proves More Challenging Than Initially Thought
It was almost one full year ago that an unforeseen interstellar object whizzed through the solar system. Immediately after the epic event, curious astronom...
NOV 07, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 07, 2018
Near-Twin of New Horizons' Ralph Instrument to Study Jupiter's Trojan Asteroids
If you followed along when NASA’s New Horizons probe flew past Pluto in July 2015, then you probably remember all the stunning photographs taken of t...
Loading Comments...