Who asserts you can’t lose your atmosphere to a neighboring red dwarf and then regrow it using volcanic activity? After a tumultuous encounter with its host star, this flexible world, situated 41 light-years from Earth, looks to be flourishing once more in the solar system.
The researchers behind the observation spotted the Earth-sized, rocky exoplanet GJ 1132 b using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and discovered credible proof that the exoplanet had an atmosphere — the solar system requirement for life to survive — but there is still something odd about it. The atmosphere of GJ 1132 b, as we see it now, was not the planet’s initial.
The Solar System Exoplanet GJ 1132 b and Key Findings
A Brief overview of what was discovered in the solar system with regards to the exoplanet:
We report the detection of an atmosphere on a rocky exoplanet, GJ 1132 b, which is similar to Earth in terms of size and density. The atmospheric transmission spectrum was detected using Hubble WFC3 measurements and shows spectral signatures of aerosol scattering, HCN, and CH4 in a low mean molecular weight atmosphere.
We model the atmospheric loss process and conclude that GJ 1132 b likely lost the original H/He envelope, suggesting that the atmosphere that we detect has been reestablished. We explore the possibility of H2 mantle degassing, previously identified as a possibility for this planet by theoretical studies, and find that outgassing from ultra reduced magma could produce the observed atmosphere. In this way, we use the observed exoplanet transmission spectrum to gain insights into magma composition for a terrestrial planet.
The detection of an atmosphere on this rocky planet raises the possibility that the numerous powerfully irradiated Super-Earth planets, believed to be the evaporated cores of Sub-Neptunes, may, under favorable circumstances, host detectable atmospheres.Detection of an Atmosphere on a Rocky Exoplanet, publication in Astronomical Journal.
In an interview, Raissa Estrela, a co-author of the study and a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said, “It’s incredibly exciting because we think the atmosphere that we see now was reconstructed, so it may be a secondary atmosphere.” “At first, we assumed that these heavily irradiated planets would be dull because they had lost their atmospheres. However, we used Hubble to look at the solar system and current observations of this planet and concluded, “Oh no, there is an atmosphere there.”
Comparison, the surface of GJ 1132 b with that of Earth and Saturn’s largest moon in the solar system we know
In the video above we have Artist’s impression of Exoplanet GJ 1132 b: by Robert Hurt. Atmosphere escaping an exoplanet (artist’s impression): NASA, ESA, M. Kornmesser. Artist’s impression of WASP-107b: ESA/Hubble, NASA, M. Kornmesser. Video animation of of Exoplanet GJ 1132 b: Robert Hurt. Aerial of oozing red lava in Hawaii: Artbeats. Aerial from Puu Oo volcanic vents on Hawaii’s Kilauea: Artbeats. Exovolcano Animation Background Only: Michael Lentz. Illustration depicting one interpretation of planet GJ 357 c: Chris Smith
GJ 1132 b, which completes one orbit of its greedy host star in only 1.5 days, is likely to be subject to tidal heating, in which gravitational forces churn the earth from the inside. Despite its short year, the alien planet is in an elliptical orbit, resulting in a phenomenon known as “gravitational pumping.” GJ 1132 b switches between squashing and stretching behavior as it swings back and forth, generating energy that powers tidal forces and, as a result, the retention of a liquid mantle.
Let us Compare with the solar system we know the most about
“How many terrestrial planets don’t begin as terrestrials? Some may start as sub-Neptunes, and they become terrestrials through a mechanism that photo-evaporates the primordial atmosphere. This process works early in a planet’s life, when the star is hotter,” said lead author Mark Swain of JPL. “Then the star cools down and the planet’s just sitting there. So you’ve got this mechanism where you can cook off the atmosphere in the first 100 million years, and then things settle down. And if you can regenerate the atmosphere, maybe you can keep it.”
“The question is, what makes the mantle hot enough to remain liquid and a ton of volcanic power?” asked Swain. “This system is unique because it has an incentive for a lot of tidal heating.” The solar system is unique.
The upcoming James Webb Space Telescope of NASA has the chance to view this exoplanet. Webb’s infrared perspective may enable scientists to see the surface of the planet. “If there are magma pools or volcanoes, those areas will be extremely hot,” Swain explained. “This will produce more emissions, and they’ll potentially be looking at the actual geological activity—which is exciting!”
Featured image by Aaron Walker