Scientists have discovered a new exoplanet with rocky surface that might have thin layer of oxygen. The newly found Venus-like planet named GJ1132b is located 39 light-years from Earth. It was first discovered back in 2015, when astronomers were peeking into the sky. What’s striking is that despite chances of having oxygen which is necessary ingredient for life, the planet cannot harbour life as it is super hot with surface temperature hovering around 232 degrees Celsius.
Astronomer Laura Schaefer from Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics (CfA) and colleagues examined the exoplanet to check whether it had water or other ingredients required for life. Meanwhile, they found that the GJ 1132b is revolving very close to its star at a distance of just 1.4 million miles due to which the planet is flooded with the ultraviolet light which depletes any chances of existence of life.
Researchers explained that UV light can disintegrate water molecule into basic components — hydrogen and oxygen. Since hydrogen is lighter, it escapes into the atmosphere leaving behind oxygen. Thus, researchers concluded that the planet might have thin layer of oxygen. However, water is absent which is most important for survival of life.
“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 sterilised,” said Schaefer.
Scientists further explained that it is first rocky planet with presence of oxygen and we don’t enough capable telescopes to examine the surface. However, next generation telescopes like James Webb Telescope and Giant Magellan might help astronomers in peeking into the planet’s surface for better results.
Schaefer has created a model named ‘magma ocean’ that can help scientists in getting better insights into evolution of planets like Venus and can also solve the problem of missing oxygen on planets which has baffled astronomers fro several years.