A Potentially Habitable Planet the Size of Earth has Been Found by Scientists

A potentially habitable planet, larger than Venus but smaller than Earth, has been found by two scientific teams to be circling a tiny star around 40 light-years away.

The exoplanet, known as Gliese 12b, is roughly 27% the size and 60% the temperature of our sun and orbits a cool red dwarf star in the constellation Pisces, according to two studies published on Thursday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Even though Gliese 12b completes its cycle every 12.8 days, it remains within the habitable zone, which is the perfect distance from a star where liquid water may exist, because its star is so much smaller than the sun.

Scientists estimated the exoplanet’s surface temperature to be about 107 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius), assuming that it lacks an atmosphere.

Masayuki Kuzuhara, a project assistant professor at the Astrobiology Center in Tokyo and co-leader of one of the research teams with Akihiko Fukui, a project assistant professor at the University of Tokyo, said in a statement, “We’ve found the nearest, transiting, temperate, Earth-size world located to date.”

Possible indications of the â ¨glory effectâ, resembling a rainbow, have been seen on a planet beyond our solar system for the first time. Glory is a colorful ring of light that appears only in specific circumstances.

After finding temperate planets roughly the size of Earth, scientists can study them to find out what components are in their atmospheres and, most importantly, if there is enough water for life to exist.

Only a small number of exoplanets that we have discovered are suitable candidates for that. Larissa Palethorpe, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh and University College London who co-led the other study, told CNN on Friday, “And this is our nearest, so that’s quite a major discovery.”

Comprehending Gliese 12b

Scientists used the publicly accessible data gathered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a telescope that observes tens of thousands of stars per month and records variations in brightness that may indicate exoplanets in orbit, to identify Gliese 12b.

Red dwarf stars have a higher dimming effect during each transit due to their relatively tiny size, which makes it easier for astronomers to locate exoplanets orbiting them.

Though Palethorpe stated they don’t anticipate to discover water there, scientists are now unaware of exactly what makes up this planet’s atmosphere, whether it even has one, and whether water is present.

“There could be no water, and then we know a runaway greenhouse effect has already happened on this planet and it’s more like Venus,” she said. “There could be water, in which case it’s more like us… or there are signatures that can be detectable that would be able to show you that the runaway greenhouse effect is in progress so it could be losing water.”

Scientists aim to perform spectroscopy study using the James Webb Space Telescope as the next step in their analysis of the exoplanet’s atmosphere. Using this technique, light from stars passing through the atmosphere of an exoplanet is captured, and the wavelengths at which particular molecules absorb light to indicate their presence in the atmosphere are identified.

According to Palethorpe, in addition to providing insight into the exoplanet, scientists hope that their effort will advance our understanding of Earth.

“What this planet will teach us in particular is what happened for Earth to stay habitable but for Venus to not… It can tell us the habitability patheways that planets take as they develop,” she said.

Even though the exoplanet is astronomically “near” our solar system and may be livable by humans, it seems doubtful that anyone will travel there anytime soon.

Palethorpe stated, “It’s not reachable, it’s 12 parsecs away,” and that it would require over 225,000 years for the fastest spaceship in use today to arrive at Gliese 12b.