However, this is where the similarities to our life-giving world end. Unlike our own world, GJ 1132 b, found 41 light years from Earth, is covered with a cauldron of poisonous gases. Oddly enough, this is perhaps the second atmosphere that encompassed this world.
Using the Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers examined the atmosphere of this rocky planet. They discovered that GJ 1132b was probably once covered with an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium.
“Starting from several times the diameter of the Earth, this so-called ‘sub-Neptune’ would have quickly lost its primordial atmosphere of hydrogen and helium due to the intense radiation of the young hot star that it orbits. In a short time, such a planet would be reduced to a bare core the size of Earth. This is where things got interesting ” NASA describes.
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I love the smell of methane in the morning …
This inhospitable world revolves around its mother star, a red dwarf, once every 38 hours, at a distance about 70 times closer than the space between Earth and the Sun.
The atmosphere seen on GJ 1132 b today is a noxious mixture of hydrogen, hydrogen cyanide, methane and a smog-like aerosol haze here on Earth. Hydrogen cyanide, sometimes called prussic acid, smells of bitter almonds and is highly toxic.
Hubble’s data, combined with computer modeling, produces a probable story for this unwelcoming world. When the planet still retained its original atmosphere, large amounts of hydrogen were stored in the crust of the world. Following the loss of its gas cover, these reserves are now released from the subsoil by volcanic activity.
“Then the star cools down and the planet is just sitting there. So you have this mechanism where you can cook the atmosphere for the first 100 million years and then things calm down. And if you can regenerate the atmosphere, maybe you can keep it, ”explains Mark Swain from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
A look at what we know – so far – about the exoplanet GJ 1132 b. (Video credit: NASA Goddard)
This exoplanet is locked to its parent star, which means that a hemisphere of GJ 1132 b is constantly facing its sun, on the same side that the Moon is still facing Earth.
“Artists are useful to society because they are very sensitive. They are hypersensitive. They topple like canaries in coal mines filled with poisonous gases, long before the tougher guys realize there is danger. “
– Kurt Vonnegut
The orbit that the GJ 1132 b takes around its star is very elliptical, with significant differences between their nearest and farthest approaches. Gravitational forces flex the planet, producing heat, causing volcanoes and releasing hydrogen under the world, research suggests. A similar process is observed in our own solar system, as Moon of Jupiter Io undergoes gravitational interactions with the King of the Planets as well as with its neighboring moons.
However, the crust of GJ 1132b is believed to be extremely thin – only about 100 meters (a few hundred feet) thick. It wouldn’t support massive volcanoes like we see on Earth. Instead, the magma would flow upward through a broken crust like a cracked hard-boiled egg.
The The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch on Halloween, may be able to spy under the clouds of GJ 1132b, giving astronomers a glimpse into the geology of this hellish planet.