POST Online Media Lite Edition



 

Potentially habitable 'exo-Venus' with Earth-like temperature discovered

Christian Fernsby |
Astronomers have made the rare and tantalizing discovery of an Earth-like exoplanet 40 light-years away that may be just a little warmer than our own world.

Article continues below




The new paper "Gliese 12 b, A Temperate Earth-sized Planet at 12 Parsecs Discovered with TESS and CHEOPS," has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The potentially habitable planet, named Gliese 12 b, orbits its host star every 12.8 days, is comparable in size to Venus—so slightly smaller than Earth—and has an estimated surface temperature of 42°C (107°F), which is lower than most of the 5,000-odd exoplanets confirmed so far.

That is assuming it has no atmosphere, however, which is the crucial next step to establishing if it is habitable.

It may have an Earth-like atmosphere, one more akin to Venus—which experienced a runaway greenhouse effect that made it a 400°C (752°F) hellhole—no atmosphere, or perhaps a different kind of atmosphere not found in our solar system.

Getting an answer is vital because it would reveal if Gliese 12 b can maintain temperatures suitable for liquid water—and possibly life—to exist on its surface, while also unlocking answers about how and why Earth and Venus evolved so differently.

Gliese 12 b is by no means the first Earth-like exoplanet to have been discovered, but as NASA has said, there are only a handful of worlds like it that warrant a closer look.

It has been billed as "the nearest, transiting, temperate, Earth-size world located to date" and a potential target for further investigation by the James Webb Space Telescope.

The closest Earth-like exoplanet to us—and possibly the most famous—is Proxima Centauri b, which is only four light-years away. However, because it is not a transiting world, we still have a lot to learn about it, including whether it has an atmosphere and the potential to harbor life.

Most exoplanets are discovered using the transit method, where a planet passes in front of its star from our point of view, causing a dip in the host star's brightness.

During a transit, the star's light also passes through an exoplanet's atmosphere and some wavelengths get absorbed. Different gas molecules absorb different colors, so the transit provides a set of chemical fingerprints that can be detected by telescopes like Webb.

Gliese 12 b could also be significant because it may help reveal whether the majority of stars in our Milky Way galaxy—i.e. cool stars—are capable of hosting temperate planets that have atmospheres and are therefore habitable.

It orbits a cool red dwarf star called Gliese 12, which is almost 40 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Pisces.

"Gliese 12 b represents one of the best targets to study whether Earth-size planets orbiting cool stars can retain their atmospheres, a crucial step to advance our understanding of habitability on planets across our galaxy," said Shishir Dholakia, a doctoral student at the Center for Astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia.

He co-led a research team with Larissa Palethorpe, a doctoral student at the University of Edinburgh and University College London.

The exoplanet's host star is about 27% of the size of our sun and has a surface temperature that is around 60% of our own star.

However, the distance separating Gliese 12 and the new planet is just 7% of the distance between Earth and the sun. Gliese 12 b therefore receives 1.6 times more energy from its star as Earth does from the sun and about 85% of what Venus experiences.

This difference in solar radiation is important because it means the planet's surface temperature is highly dependent on its atmospheric conditions. As a comparison to Gliese 12 b's estimated surface temperature of 42°C (107°F), Earth has an average surface temperature of 15°C (59°F).

"Atmospheres trap heat and—depending on the type—can change the actual surface temperature substantially," Dholakia explained. "We are quoting the planet's 'equilibrium temperature," which is the temperature the planet would be if it had no atmosphere.

"Much of the scientific value of this planet is to understand what kind of atmosphere it could have. Since Gliese 12 b gets in between the amount of light as Earth and Venus get from the sun, it will be valuable for bridging the gap between these two planets in our solar system."

Palethorpe added, "It is thought that Earth's and Venus's first atmospheres were stripped away and then replenished by volcanic outgassing and bombardments from residual material in the solar system.

"The Earth is habitable, but Venus is not due to its complete loss of water. Because Gliese 12 b is between Earth and Venus in temperature, its atmosphere could teach us a lot about the habitability pathways planets take as they develop."

The researchers, along with another team in Tokyo, used observations by NASA's TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) to help make their discovery.

"We've found the nearest, transiting, temperate, Earth-size world located to date," said Masayuki Kuzuhara, a project assistant professor at the Astrobiology Center in Tokyo, who co-led a research team with Akihiko Fukui, a project assistant professor at the University of Tokyo.

"Although we don't yet know whether it possesses an atmosphere, we've been thinking of it as an exo-Venus, with similar size and energy received from its star as our planetary neighbor in the solar system."

An important factor in retaining an atmosphere is the storminess of its star. Red dwarfs tend to be magnetically active, resulting in frequent, powerful X-ray flares.

However, analyses by both teams conclude that Gliese 12 shows no signs of such extreme behavior, raising hopes that Gliese 12 b's atmosphere may still be intact.

"We know of only a handful of temperate planets similar to Earth that are both close enough to us and meet other criteria needed for this kind of study, called transmission spectroscopy, using current facilities," said Michael McElwain, a research astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and a co-author of the Kuzuhara and Fukui paper.

"To better understand the diversity of atmospheres and evolutionary outcomes for these planets, we need more examples like Gliese 12 b."

At 40 light-years from Earth, Gliese 12 b is about the same distance as the TRAPPIST-1 system.

This is made up of seven planets, all roughly in Earth's size range and likely rocky, orbiting a red dwarf star.

Three of these are in the habitable zone but at least two—and probably all of them—have no atmosphere and are likely barren, dismissing hopes when they were first discovered eight years ago that they could be water worlds hosting life.


What to read next

New target for hunting for life: Old, red stars
Most likely Earth-like exoplanets cataloged
Planetary shields will buckle under stellar winds from their dying stars

Additional heavy rainfall for Florida; severe thunderstorms in east U.S.

 
The threat of heavy rain is expected to slowly diminish across southern Florida through the next couple of days as a low pressure center moves northeast off the southeastern U.S., pulling the axis of a trough of low pressure slightly off the coast of Florida early this morning.
 
 

Latest

U.S. drillers cut oil and gas rig count
Chile declares disaster zone after storm leaves 1 dead, 4,300 homeless
Construction starts to transform South Brooklyn Marine Terminal Into nation's largest offshore wind port
SubCom and Telecom Egypt complete IEX cable landings in Egypt

NEWS

Malawi's vice president Chilima killed in plane crash to be buried Friday

Heat continues in southwest U.S.; severe thunderstorms in Central Plains
Passenger train hits freight train in Czech Republic, 4 killed, 27 injured
Rhine in south Germany reopened for cargo shipping
Active pattern for center of U.S.; increasing rainfall threat for Pacific Northwest
Greece finds 109 kg of cocaine in ship container with frozen squid
 

BUSINESS

With record revenue of $996 billion airlines earn just $6.14 per passenger

Venezuela enters WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement
Czech railway safety and capacity strengthened with EIB loan of €527 million
U.S. oil and gas rig count falls to 594
UN's Guterres: Advertising from fossil fuel companies must be banned
U.S. drillers cut oil and gas rigs
 

Trending Now

Dispatch, Eneco collaborate on groundbreaking battery energy storage system for renewable energy in Netherlands

Global fisheries and aquaculture production reaches new record high

Malawi's vice president Chilima killed in plane crash to be buried Friday

Colombia to suspend coal exports to Israel


POLITICS

Colombia to suspend coal exports to Israel

EU tariffs on Chinese EVs opposed across Europe
Ontario supports laid off auto workers in Windsor and Chatham
Poland building fortifications on its eastern border
Bulgaria set to start construction of Vertical Gas Corridor
Argentine president Milei says to lay off another 50,000 civil servants to reduce spending
 

Today We Recommend

With record revenue of $996 billion airlines earn just $6.14 per passenger


Highlights 

Construction starts to transform South Brooklyn Marine Terminal Into nation's largest offshore wind port

Global fisheries and aquaculture production reaches new record high

Alstom to revolutionize Bengaluru Metro with advanced CBTC signalling system


COMPANIES

Vodafone connects UK to world’s largest subsea cable system

Dispatch, Eneco collaborate on groundbreaking battery energy storage system for renewable energy in Netherlands
Alstom to revolutionize Bengaluru Metro with advanced CBTC signalling system
Cottbuser Ostsee to host Germany’s largest floating solar power plant by EPH Power Europe
Deutsche Aircraft starts final assembly line construction, will create up to 350 jobs
MSC launches Britannia: New standalone loop connecting Asia to North Europe
 

CAREERS

Comviva announces key executive appointments in Europe and North America

Ocean Outdoor announces group CEO succession plan
Rajesh Chandiramani takes over as Comviva CEO
Azentio appoints Rahul Arora as new chief sales officer
Orion Innovation names Kelly Ercolino SVP of marketing
CLG appoints Yves Ollivier as managing director in Pointe Noire Congo
 

ECONOMY

Eurozone reports modest Q1 GDP growth, stable annual inflation

Italy sees faster economic growth in Q1
Slovenia's economy expected to grow 0.9 pct in Q1
Italy faces deficit infringement procedure
Real GDP increased in all 50 U.S. states
Inflation continues to decline in Germany
 

EARNINGS

Motorcar Parts of America Q4 sales $189.5 million

Limoneira Q2 revenue $44.6 million
Lululemon athletica Q1 revenue increased 10% to $2.2 billion
PVH Q1 GAAP EBIT $205 million
Dollar General Q1 operating profit decreased 26.3%
Guess Q1 revenue increased by 7%
 

OP-ED

Micromanaging is the worst enemy of efficiency and teamwork

Niger set to monetize massive gas reserves through Saharan natural gas pipeline
Putting the brakes on EV folly that choked the market
Oil discovery in Kavango Basin may mean huge benefits for Namibians
Cape Town and Dubai battle over Africa's energy future
Is America going to lose its superpower status?
 

AGRIFISH

Global fisheries and aquaculture production reaches new record high

Hong Kong suspends import of poultry meat and products from Sioux County, Iowa
Hong Kong suspends import of poultry meat and products from areas in India, U.S. and Korea
UK declares freedom from bird flu
Belgium second EU country to authorise bluetongue vaccine
UK government unveils major package of farming and food sector support
 

LEADERSHIP

Study finds workers misjudge wage markets

Some organizations may need to expand their hierarchical structures earlier than others
Study finds there's right way and wrong way to deliver negative feedback in workplace
Allyship is critical and its needs appreciation
Generating 'buzz' about new products can influence their success
Hiring 'problem directors' can knock up to 64% off firm's value
 

CRIME

EU Commission fines Mondelēz €337.5 million for cross-border trade restrictions

HSBC pays penalties for alleged breaches of Consumer Data Right rules
Sanofi to settle thousands of Zantac cancer lawsuits
Former asset manager and board member of Geneva private bank referred to Swiss Federal Criminal Court
South Africa: SAP ordered to pay SIU $26m over 'invalid' Eskom contracts
Former Steinhoff director appears in court for $1.1b fraud, racketeering
 

Magazine

TRAVEL

Morocco’s first Radisson branded hotel opens in Casablanca

Buna channels, an unreal and beautiful part of Bosnia and Herzegovina
JW Marriott unveils Mindful Haven with opening of JW Marriott Hotel Nairobi
Sotheby's Sports Week returns with fantastic artifacts
Red Roof properties open in Michigan
Treyam, your premier lagoon destination in Saudi Arabia
 

SEA, LAND, AIR

2025 Chevrolet Equinox stands apart with fresh looks and capability

Hill Helicopters HX50, luxury in the sky
Opel Movano becomes fully equipped camper van
Porsche Panamera, new hybrid variants
Dodge Charger, 670 horsepower of electric
Pagani Huayra R Evo, 900 hp from 770 Nm
 

DESIGN

Cold night, hot fire pit, cool entertainment

Embellish your home with PVC panels
You'll have to hurry if you want one of 20 new Louis Vuitton watches
Luxury duvet looks good, fells good and keeps you healthy
Vacheron Constantin, watches for life and more
Schüller kitchens, where functionality marries design
 

GADGETS

reMarkable 2, monochrome tablet for your thoughts and your eyes

OnePlus Ace 3V, first with Snapdragon 7 Plus Gen 3
ASUS Zenfone 11 Ultra, flagship with a reason
Samsung Galaxy S24 is photography powerhouse
Casette tapes are making a big comeback, and so are portable players
Neumann TLM 103, standard microphone for both voice and music
 

HEALTH

UK: People with HIV can now donate eggs or sperm to start family

EU health watchdog urges vaccinations to stem surge in Whooping Cough cases
Brazil resumes insulin production after two decades
India launches first home-grown gene therapy for cancer
UK scientists win funding for 'cancer detecting' Lollipops
State to cover rare disease treatment costs in Bulgaria
 

MEANTIME

Potentially habitable 'exo-Venus' with Earth-like temperature discovered

Rare species of wild bees discovered in Berlin
SLAC completes construction of largest digital camera ever built for astronomy
Solar eclipse next week in U.S., Mexico and Canada
Gravitational waves may have made human life possible
Astronomers unveil strong magnetic fields spiraling at the edge of Milky Way's central black hole