NASA found potentially habitable nearest Earth-sized exoplanet

An artist's illustration compares Earth with different possible Gliese 12 b interpretations, from one with no atmosphere to one with a thick Venus-like one
An artist’s illustration compares Earth with different possible Gliese 12 b interpretations, from one with no atmosphere to one with a thick Venus-like one. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (Caltech-IPAC))

Two international teams of astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized exoplanet, Gliese 12 b, located only 40 light-years away in the constellation Pisces, using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

Gliese 12 b is the nearest Earth-sized exoplanet found to date.

Exoplanets are planets that orbit other stars outside our solar system. The planet Gliese 12 b orbits the star named Gliese 12. Here the suffix “b” signifies it is the first discovered exoplanet around the star Gliese 12.

Astronomers have calculated that the planet Gliese 12 b takes only 12.8 days to orbit its host star and estimated its surface temperature to be about 107°F (42°C).

Astronomers still don’t know whether the planet Gliese 12 b possesses an atmosphere. Follow-up observations with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope could reveal its atmosphere as well as composition.

The planet could be habitable as the temperature of the planet Gliese 12 b is in between Earth and Venus. The average temperatures of Earth and Venus are 59°F (15°C) and 867°F (464°C), respectively.

Now the size of the host star Gliese 12 is only 27% of the sun, and its surface temperature is about 60% of the sun. As a result, it creates a habitable zone much closer than our sun. A habitable zone is a range of distances around a star where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface.

Astronomers found that the distance of Gliese 12 b from its host star is only 7% of the distance between Earth and the Sun, and it receives 1.6 times as much energy from its host star as our Earth receives from the Sun. So the planet Gliese 12 b could be located in the habitable zone of its host star.

All the above facts make the Earth-sized exoplanet Gliese 12 b a prime target for further study.

Two scientific papers have been published on the above findings on May 23, 2024 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. These are:

Gliese 12 b: A Temperate Earth-sized Planet at 12 pc Ideal for Atmospheric Transmission Spectroscopy

Gliese 12 b, a temperate Earth-sized planet at 12 parsecs discovered with TESS and CHEOPS

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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