Being on the hunt for so-called ‘super-Earths’ is one of the main hobbies for astronomers, and there are several reasons for it. Such planets could offer a lot of clues about how life could emerge and evolve elsewhere in the Universe.
As a new article from Yahoo News reveals, a newfound planet is added to the list of ‘super-Earths’. Namely Gliese 486 b, the world may offer a great opportunity to study the atmosphere of an Earth-like planet since it’s not too far away from our own Solar System (only 26.3 light-years). Of course, it could also mean making another step forward when it comes to finding alien life.
An inhabitable planet
Although Gliese 486 b could lend a helping hand when it comes to exploring the chances of alien life to exist in similar worlds, the planet itself is quite inhabitable. Gliese 486 b is thought to be resembling Venus, the hellish world located ‘next-door’ to us. With hot and dry surfaces, both planets cannot possibly host any life forms that are known to humans: those based on carbon.
Trifon Trifonov, the lead author of the new study and a planetary scientist of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, confirmed what is obvious about Gliese 486 b:
Gliese 486 b cannot be habitable, at least not the way we know it here on Earth.
The planet possibly only has a tenuous atmosphere, if any. Our models are consistent with both scenarios because stellar irradiation tends to evaporate atmospheres, whereas, at the same time, the planetary gravity is strong enough to retain it.
José Caballero from Centro de Astrobiología in Spain, a co-author of the study, shows himself very optimistic about how can the ‘super-Earth’ be useful:
All that we learn with the atmosphere of Gliese 486 b and other Earth-like planets will be applied, within a few decades, to the detection of biomarkers or biosignatures: spectral features on the atmospheres of exoplanets that can only be ascribed to extraterrestrial life.