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Hot, Venus-like Exoplanet in the Cosmic Neighborhood May Have an Atmosphere

First Posted: Nov 12, 2015 07:00 AM EST
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A new, Venus-like planet has been found in our cosmic neighborhood. The newfound world, as hot as an oven, may just be cool enough to host an atmosphere and is only 39 light-years away.

"Our ultimate goal is to find a twin Earth, but along the way we've found a twin Venus," said David Charbonneau, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We suspect it will have a Venus-like atmosphere too, and if it does we can't wait to get a whiff."

Known as GJ 1132b, the planet orbits a red dwarf star only one-fifth the size of our sun. The star is also much cooler and fainter than our sun, emitting just 1/200th as much light. However, the planet circles its star every 1.6 days at a distance of just 1.4 million miles. For comparison, Mercury orbits our sun at 36 million miles.

Because of this close orbit, the planet is baked to a temperature of about 450 degrees. Such temperatures would boil off any water the planet may have once had. However, it still allows for the presence of an atmosphere, and is also significantly cooler than any other exoplanet confirmed to be rocky.

The planet is about 16 percent larger than Earth, and has a diameter of about 9,200 miles. It also has a mass that's 60 percent greater than Earth. The resulting density indicates that the planet has a rocky composition similar to Earth.

"This planet is going to be a favorite target of astronomers for years to come," said Zachory Berta-Thompson, lead author of the new study.

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

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