Newly found ‘super-earth’ could hold the key to finding extraterrestrial life in World News

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A “super-earth” just 26 light years away could be the key to finding extraterrestrial life.

At 430C (806F) and immersed in radiation, it is unlikely that there is life between the lava flows believed to burn across the surface of Gliese 486b.

But – like the earth – the planet consists of rock and is supposed to have a metallic core.

The surface of the newly discovered exoplanet Gliese 486 b. Image: Renderarea / Reuters
Image:
A graphic interpretation of the surface of the newly discovered exoplanet Gliese 486 b. Image: Renderarea / Reuters

And which gases are or are not present in the atmosphere could help scientists examine other planets for signs of life room.

“We say Gliese 486 b will immediately become the Rosetta Stone of exoplanetology – at least for planets similar to Earth,” said astrophysicist and study co-author Jose Caballero of the Centro de Astrobiologia in Spain, referring to the ancient stone slab that helped experts decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The chemical makeup of Gliese 486b’s atmosphere could provide scientists with a point of contrast with which to compare other planets – oxygen, carbon dioxide, or methane would be noteworthy as these are present in our own life-sustaining bubble.

“Everything we learn with the atmosphere of Gliese 486b and other Earth-like planets is applied within a few decades to the detection of biomarkers or biosignatures: spectral features in the atmosphere of exoplanets that can only be ascribed to extraterrestrial life,” added Caballero added.

A “super-earth” is a planet that is heavier than our home planet, but smaller than Uranus and Neptune.

Gliese 486 b is believed to be about 2.8 times the mass of Earth and 1.3 times its size.

Telescopes on and in orbit will be pointed at Gliese 486b for more information to be gathered.

Gliese 486b is in an ideal part of the sky under study and not too far away – only 26.3 light years (5.9 trillion miles) away.

More than 4,300 exoplanets – planets outside our solar system – have been discovered.

Gliese 486 b is immersed in radiation from its local star. Image: Renderarea / Reuters
Image:
Gliese 486 b is immersed in radiation from its local star. Image: Renderarea / Reuters

The planetary researcher Trifon Trifonov from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany is the lead author of the research published in the journal Science.

He said: “Gliese 486 b cannot be habitable, at least not as we know it here on earth.”

The planet orbits very closely around its red dwarf star and leaves it immersed in radiation. The mass, which is greater than Earth, also means that gravity on the planet will be about 70% greater than it is here.

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