A new research has revealed of a Venus-like exoplanet that may have atmosphere with oxygen but not life.
‘GJ 1132b’ – the distant planet is located just 39 light-years from Earth. It might have atmosphere despite being heated up to a temperature of around 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
“This planet might be the first time that oxygen has been detected on a rocky planet outside the solar system,” said study co-author Robin Wordsworth, a professor at Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Owing to a star, orbiting very close at a distance of just 1.4 million miles, the planet is flooded with ultraviolet light. UV light breaks apart water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, both of which then can be lost into space, explained the team. However, since hydrogen is lighter it escapes more readily, while oxygen stays behind.
“On cooler planets, oxygen could be a sign of alien life and habitation. But on a hot planet like GJ 1132b, it is a sign of the exact opposite – a planet that’s being heated up a lot and hence is sterilised,” Astronomer Laura Schaefer of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said in a media statement.
However, the magma ocean-atmosphere model of the planet can help solve the puzzle of how Venus evolved over time, stated Schaefer and the team in their study. In fact NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope which is scheduled for launch in 2018 may be used for detection of the atmospheric oxygen.
Water vapour could act as a powerful greenhouse gas, trapping the intense heat of the host star inside GJ113b. Due to this, the surface of the planet could stay molten for millions of years, in accordance with the model created by Schaefer and her colleagues.
Venus, in all likelihood, began with Earthlike amounts of water, which would have been broken apart by sunlight. The missing oxygen problem still continues to perplex astronomers.
Schaefer predicts that their model also will provide insights into other, similar exoplanets.
The research has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.